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Posted: May 12, 2009

UK innovation nanotechnology patent landscape analysis

(Nanowerk News) The UK Intellectual Property Office has compiled a nanotechnology patent landscape for the UK. This reports on all UK patent data and reflects on UK innovation in the field of nanotechnology. The document can be downloaded from the nanoKTN website. Here is the executive summary:
Patent data reflecting UK innovation in the field of nanotechnology was analysed and several subsets considered separately:
UK innovation commercial organisations University applicants Global patent activity in nanotoxicity These yield the following observations in respect of UK innovation:
  • UK strong overall in bionanotechnology
  • Commercial organisations prolific in medical and cosmetic applications
  • Universities strong in science-base research in nanostructures, physics and electrical applications including scanning probes, light guides, semiconductors and magnets
  • Most prolific commercial patents closely related to densely patented (established) technology sectors
  • University patents spread very broadly across all sectors and tend to populate underrepresented sectors supporting research bias
  • It was noted that whilst recent declines in nanotechnology patenting may be attributable to patent publication delays, evidence in university patenting, and the GB patent bias in the dataset suggested that the decline may be actual. If so, nanotechnology patent activity would seem to have peaked in 2002.
    Under technology breakdown, medical preparation including targeted drug delivery and antibody directed enzyme therapy is seen to decline since prolific activity in the early 1990s. On the other hand, cyclodextrins and medicinal preparations involving nanoparticles and/or nanocapsules is recently resurgent. Activity in nanostructures and physics/electrical fields is ongoing and may be attributable to recent university research pursuing these technologies.
    The UK is underrepresented in nanotoxicity, but this appears to be a growth area, peaking recently in 2005.
    Patent portfolio (holdings) analysis suggests, despite the bias of patents in established areas assigned to commercial organisations, that new entrants and exploratory research still form a significant part of the UK nanotechnology landscape; 49% of patents are held within portfolios of less than 20 nanotechnology patents.
    Collaborative activity between applicants is noted although inventor collaborations are more prolific. Universities are seen to collaborate widely suggesting a high degree of technology transfer and/or spin out. Patents held by non-commercial organisations make up 33% of the dataset. This suggests a significant research and development activity-base with continuing commercialisation and applications development.
    Oxford and Cambridge universities are seen to top the league of university applicants, but the University of Glasgow is noted for its specialism in semiconductors, lasers and light guides; the University of Bristol for its strength in nanometrology and the University of Liverpool for its strength in nanofiltration and separation.
    Key patents are identified on the basis of citation analysis and evidence specific UK strengths in nanowires, nanotubes, nanoparticle compositions and nanoprobes.
    A similar analysis of nanotoxicity patents yields prevalent US and WO patents, some with UK designation or equivalents.
    A high level comparison with European patent data reveals overlap with the UK patent landscape, but highlights UK strengths in pharmaceutical compositions and delivery. European patents on the other hand occur in fields underrepresented by the UK, such as composite carbon polymers and nanostructure films.
    Recommendations
  • Investigation of the portfolios of applicants who are currently active.
  • Investigation of a date-limited dataset covering e.g. the last ten years.
  • Analysis of specific organisations? (or universities?) patent portfolios including the status of those patents, their relevance to specific fields or interests and a more refined assessment of their technological value (for example by referring to the search reports, patent family size etc.).
  • Further narrowing of specific requirements to discover key patents within relevant technological areas, which may be obscured in the current dataset.
  • Refinement of the technology groupings, combined with temporal limitation could highlight recent UK strengths in this area and potentially highlight areas of emergent UK-based activity.
  • Interactive interrogation of the patent landscape could also provide further information on UK nanotechnology activity. In particular, the examination of relevant patents associated with identified key patents may provide a more detailed overview.
  • Time-slicing of certain data representations can also indicate the nature of changing technical characteristics over time, which in turn can facilitate the identification of future technology growth or decline.
  • Specific example patents (e.g. from the nanotoxicity dataset) could be rigorously analysed to further understand their potential, transferability or demise.
  • It is essential that the examination of UK nanotechnology is viewed in a global context, as it will then become more evident where UK expertise and research is being directed through contrast with global activity.
  • Source: nanoKTN