If the type of patents being filed by Europe’s companies is anything to go by, the economy that will emerge from the financial crisis in Europe may be decidedly green.
That is because Europe is playing a leading role in applying for patents linked to climate-friendly solutions, from specialised fuel-efficient engines to low-energy consumer goods, European Patent Office (EPO) president Benoît Battistelli said, presenting the organisation’s report for 2012.
Overall, European companies accounted for more than half of all patent applications in traditional sectors such as chemicals and turbines.
However, in the newly booming computer technology and digital communications sectors, European firms accounted for 32 % and 29 % of all applications respectively.Click to view EPO Patent Applications in 2012 - Top 10 companies
That’s partly because, for the first time in the history of the Munich-based EPO, a non-European firm, Korean electrical goods manufacturer Samsung, filed the most patents. It filed a total of 2 289 patents, sneaking ahead of the usual table leader, German electronics giant Siemens, which applied for 2 193 last year.
In fact, the EPO had a record year in 2012, and that growth was largely driven by patents from Asia and the USA.
Elsewhere in the top ten, the arrival of the first Chinese company, tech giant ZTE, underlined the trend towards Asia.
The number of patent filings from China rose by 11 %, the steepest increase of any of the major patent contributing countries. ‘This is a measure of our office's global standing,’ Battistelli said.
One patent to rule them all
Companies will soon find it easier and cheaper to protect their innovations in Europe, thanks to the introduction of a single Europe-wide patent. ‘It will impact on small- and medium-sized enterprises and academic institutions because the process will simplify and reduce the costs of applying for patents,’ Battistelli said.
Approved by all EU Member States except for Italy and Spain, the new patent must be ratified in national legislation before it can be issued. That process is likely to take place before the end of this year.
The first three years of the unitary patent system will be keenly watched to see if European SMEs and academic institutions are responding to it.
By then, some of the applications recorded in last year’s statistics will be filtering into the real economy and marketplace, revealing Europe’s next generation of innovations.
Click below to listen to Benoît Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office, speaking about the benefits of the new European patent.
Bill Gates and the European Commission have launched a €100 million investment fund designed to bring radical clean energy technologies more quickly to market in order to promote energy efficiency and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Businesses and consumers need to stop thinking of products as things to own and move towards a culture of sharing and repairing if we are to fulfil the ambition of creating a circular economy, according to Felipe Maya, project and innovation manager at sustainable engineering firm Exergy, headquartered in Coventry, UK.
As wind turbines become increasingly familiar sights along shorelines, developers of offshore floating platforms, which harness the powerful winds further out to sea, are seeking to establish their technologies as a major viable source of clean energy.
Hydrogen can be used to power cars, supply electricity and heat homes, all with zero carbon emissions. The snag is that the vast majority of hydrogen itself is derived from fossil fuels – a fact that scientists are now hoping to change. They plan to clean up production to kickstart a dedicated economy – something that has already found small-scale success in Scotland’s Orkney Islands.
Floating wind turbines could be a clean energy game changer.
Europe's leadership 'more important than ever', says Gates.
A circular economy needs new business models and reusable products, says Felipe Maya.