Alternative Energy

Energy sector continues to innovate with application jump

20th May 2020
Alex Lynn

The latest data from the European Patent Office shows continued innovation in the energy sector with the number of European applications jumping from 10,668 to 11,255, a rise of 5.5% on the previous year.

Germany topped the table for the most energy patents filed in 2019, closely followed by Japan, with the UK also being a top ten filer.

Andy Docherty, a Partner at Marks & Clerk, an intellectual property firms, has commented on the report and its findings: “Energy plays a key role in driving the global economy, and, as the ongoing instability in oil prices highlights, is a highly complicated and fluid sector, subject to all kinds of externalities.

“Innovation is key in this sector therefore, in giving companies the edge and allowing them to tackle the many energy challenges we face – whether finding more efficient fossil fuel sources, or developing exciting new technologies such as nuclear fusion.

“The reduction in the oil price will no doubt inspire further innovation in this sector, as the global economy slowly transitions out of lockdown over the coming months, and demand for oil begins to increase.”

The latest figures from the EPO show the scale of innovation in the energy sector in the UK, which was one of the country’s key areas of growth.

For example, in the electrical machinery, apparatus & energy fields, 303 European applications were filed from the UK last compared with 268 the previous year (a rise of 13%), while filings for engines pumps and turbines saw a significant rise of 34.9% on the previous year – with 325 patents filed in 2019 versus 241 in 2018.

This reflects ongoing investment in both North Sea oil exploration and decommissioning, as well as investment in renewable energy sources which, in late 2019, provided more of the UK’s electricity than fossil fuels for the first time.

Prime examples of investment in the UK energy sector include the ambitious 3.6GW Dogger Bank in the UK North Sea, a joint venture by SSE Renewables and Norway’s Equinor. Dubbed a ‘megaproject’, it will be the world’s largest offshore windfarm, capable of generating electricity for 4.5 million homes, and demonstrates the kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration within the wider energy sector which seems likely to continue in future.  

The EPO data also highlighted the scale of innovation investment in the UK across a range of sectors. A total 6,156 European patent applications were filed from the UK in 2019 according to the data. This is up from 5,761 applications filed in 2018 – an increase of 395, or nearly 7%.

Globally, the biggest source of patent applications in 2019 was digital communications, with 14,175 being filed (up nearly 20% on 2018). Computer technology applications were also up 10%, at 12,774.

The UK has also increased its activity in these fields, filing 240 applications relating to digital communications and 467 relating to computer technology (up 7.1% and 24.5% respectively) – highlighting the increasingly important role that technologies such as artificial intelligence will have in shaping the UK’s economy in the future.

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