Research and development*

Strategic focus of research and development

Under the KION 2027 strategy, research and development is set up so as to support the KION Group’s position as a leading global supplier of industrial trucks (based on the number of units sold) and of integrated and sustainable supply chain solutions and mobile automation solutions (based on revenue). In addition to continuous innovation geared to the needs of customers, another objective of the R&D activities is to reduce the complexity and diversity of the product range and to shorten development times for new products. R&D activities are focused on the two strategic fields of action ‘automation and software’ and ‘sustainability’.

R&D activities essentially take place on a cross-brand and cross-region basis, which makes it easier for research findings and technological know-how to be shared across the Group. The local product development teams, working for the individual brand companies and regions, develop customer-specific solutions based on the global platforms.

Key R&D figures

The KION Group increased its spending on R&D by 9.3 percent to €351.0 million in 2023 (2022: €321.3 million). This equates to 3.1 percent of revenue (2022: 2.9 percent). R&D costs totaling €235.1 million were expensed (2022: €203.3 million). There were also amortization charges on capitalized development costs of €117.6 million (2022: €112.6 million), which are reported under cost of sales (see note [8] in the notes to the consolidated financial statements).

Research and development (R&D)

in € million




Research and development costs (P&L)




Capitalized development costs




Total R&D spending




R&D spending as percentage of revenue



The number of full-time equivalents in R&D teams had risen by 5.1 percent to 2,101 employees as at the end of 2023 (December 31, 2022: 2,000). The KION Group pursues a dedicated patent strategy to protect against imitations of its technology. As at the end of 2023, the companies of the KION Group together held a total of 2,937 patent applications and issued patents (December 31, 2022: 2,843). They applied for 89 new patents in 2023, compared with 94 in 2022.

Focus of R&D in 2023

Automation and software

The KION Group is continuously refining brand-independent solutions built on the use of networked trucks and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and including shared software platforms and integrated services.

STILL worked on the further development of automated guided vehicle systems as a response to the growing need of customers for scalable automation solutions that are quick to implement and integrate well into existing production and warehouse structures. One of KION’s areas of focus was the development of self-learning trucks and AMRs for environments in which both manual and automated vehicles are used side by side.

Partnerships are also used to drive forward research and development in the ‘automation and software’ field of action. STILL participated in the joint Canadian-German undertaking ARIBIC, for example, which was completed in November 2023. The project involved taking data from the sensors of industrial trucks in order to create a digital twin of a real-world warehouse. Further development of the prototype is planned for 2024. As part of the CampusOS project, STILL is conducting research into open 5G networks and developing the technologies required to use them in intralogistics. The KAnIS development project, in which a counterbalance truck was equipped for autonomous indoor and outdoor operation, was run in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences in Aschaffenburg.

The European research project IMOCO4.E is being taken forward as well. The project aims to further develop mobile robots for use in warehouses and factories. Development of mobile robots is also the focus of the Bavarian research project KI.FABRIK, specifically in terms of them autonomously supplying assembly lines and thus automating the flow of materials along the entire production chain. Furthermore, as part of the GRASS project, Linde Material Handling is working with local research partners to explore the use of a mobile robotic arm in pallet picking.

Three further collaborative projects are focused on the use of artificial intelligence. As part of the AIGV project with the University of Edinburgh, Dematic is applying reinforcement learning methods to coordinate swarms of autonomous transport robots to pick objects in tandem with humans. In the AGENC project, STILL is working with research and industry partners to research fundamental ways in which AI can be used for machine-learning-based modeling of cyber-physical systems. In December 2023, STILL launched the LernFFZ project together with a consortium of universities and companies. The work involves using AI to analyze the behavior of forklift drivers in order to create steering models for autonomous industrial trucks.


The KION Group is forging ahead with the development and refinement of energy-efficient drive solutions, from internal combustion engines to various electric drive systems and fuel cells.

In the reporting year, the KION Group developed a proprietary 24-volt fuel cell system for warehouse trucks, launching it onto the market in November 2023. To begin with, the system is to be used in order pickers and tow tractors, with a view to adding it to pallet trucks and double stackers in future. The new production line at the Hamburg plant is able to manufacture up to 5,000 fuel cell systems a year. Capital expenditure on this project will amount to more than €11 million. Alongside vehicles and fuel cell systems, the offering also includes associated services. A 48-volt system is due to be added to the fuel cell portfolio in the next couple of years. The fuel cell trucks deployed at the plant in Aschaffenburg are supplied by a dedicated green hydrogen infrastructure. This investment project has been supported by funding from the German Federal Ministry for Digital and Transport.   

In 2023, the KION Group also made progress in the development of sustainable solutions for the entire lithium-ion battery lifecycle, including charging management, reconditioning, and recycling. Since September 2023, KION has had lithium-ion batteries that have reached the end of their useful life sustainably recycled by strategic partner Li-Cycle Holding Corp. The KION Group is aiming for up to 5,000 tonnes of used battery material to have been professionally processed at the new Li-Cycle premises in Magdeburg by 2030. In April, Linde Material Handling expanded its range of X series models of electronic forklift trucks with lithium-ion batteries to include trucks with a load capacity of up to five tonnes. Linde Energy Manager is a new software solution that is designed to provide a comprehensive, transparent overview of a company’s energy supply situation and thus facilitate AI-assisted forecasting. The aim is to avoid spikes in electricity usage while also reducing energy costs and carbon emissions.

A further objective is to create closed loop material cycles as far as possible. This includes refurbishing used industrial trucks and returning them to the value chain. In September 2023, in Türkiye, STILL opened what is already its fourth reconditioning center for used forklifts and other warehouse trucks. A total of around 8,000 old trucks can be refurbished and made available to the secondary market every year. The sustainability activities are also geared toward avoiding excessive noise. In July 2023, Dematic announced the global launch of a noise-reduction portfolio. The solution uses 3D noise mapping to recommend steps for reducing noise levels.

* The content of this chapter/section is disclosed voluntarily and is therefore unaudited.