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Posted: May 08, 2006
Europe in danger of missing the boat on commercial returns In nanotechnology
(Nanowerk News) A new report by law firm Marks and Clerk warns that high public expenditure in Europe is not being converted into commercial prospects due to a lack of patent applications.
The rapid growth of patent applications in three key areas of nanotechnology in the Far East and US is not being matched in Europe, in spite of substantial investment in research, according to a report by Marks & Clerk, one of the world’s leading firms of patent and trade mark attorneys. In its inaugural Nanotechnology Report, Marks & Clerk explores worldwide patent activity in the fields of nanoelectronics, nanoenergy and nanotechnology in health and personal care.
The report finds a dramatic increase in the filing of patent applications for nanotechnology across the globe, highlighting its growing commercial importance. Globally, annual priority filings nearly trebled between 2000 and 2003 in all three fields covered by the report.
However, companies and institutions in Europe are filing far fewer patent applications than their US and Far Eastern counterparts. The report finds that in nanoelectronics, amongst the top thirty players accounting for about half the total number of patent families, only 8 per cent of families were filed by European applicants, compared with 24 per cent by US applicants and 51 per cent by Japanese applicants.
A similar picture emerges in nanoenergy. Amongst priority filings, usually an indication of the country of origin of the applicant, there were 398 applications for nanoenergy patents in the USA from 2000-2005, although this figure is affected by a number of non-US applicants filing priority applications in the US due to the importance of the US market. Over the same period there were 278 priority filings in Japan, 77 in South Korea and 43 in China. By comparison, Europe is poorly represented in the nanoenergy league, with the highest number of first filings from Germany (35), ahead of the UK (18) and France (10), with a further 28 priority filings at the European Patent Office. The total number of priority filings in Europe was just 40 per cent of those in Japan and under 30 per cent of those in the USA.
The comparative dearth of patent applications for nanotechnology in Europe comes despite record levels of investment in research, particularly from public funds. According to the Nanosciences and Nanotechnology Unit of the European Commission, although the total R&D spend for 2004 in nanotechnology in Europe of $2.4 billion was behind that of the USA at $3.6 billion and Japan at $2.8 billion, funding from the European public purse of $1.7 billion exceeded that in the USA ($1.5 billion) and Japan ($0.9 billion).