September 29, 2022

Is the UK punching above its weight on Green Innovation?

During COP26, the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) released a series of reports about patenting activity on various green technology areas. Now that the dust from COP has settled, we thought we would take a closer look at some of the trends and statistics.

Many of the reports showed that the US and China dominated in terms of the pure number of patent applications filed. These territories are well known for being prolific in the world of patents and so this is as expected. In addition to the absolute filing numbers, the UKIPO provided data on a parameter called “Relative Specialisation Index” (RSI).

The RSI parameter is defined by a slightly complex logarithmic equation. In essence, it provides a measure of how much each country’s patenting activity is focused on a particular technological area. A value above 0 indicates that that country contributes more patents in that technology area than their average contribution to the patent system. This is suggestive of innovation being focused on that area. A value below 0 suggests that the country contributes less in that tech area than their average contribution.

In order to see any trends, we extracted the RSI data provided within the various UKIPO reports and plotted it in the attached figure. Data is shown for the US, China, France and the UK. Overall, the data shows that the US and China, who both file large numbers of applications, show no particular focus on green technology, while France and the UK show many areas with an RSI above 0. France shows some very high specialisations, while the UK is more consistent in its contribution across the whole green tech landscape.

We take this to be a promising indicator that the UK is serious about developing a whole range of new green tech solutions in order to meet its climate targets, and we look forward to seeing this trend continue in the future. It is also good to see that a suite of new technological options is being developed as it is unlikely that a single technology area will be able to move the world to a climate neutral economy by itself.

As a final point, we note that while China generally showed less specialisation in the areas considered by the reports, many of the reports indicate a large increase in green tech activity coming out of China in the last few years. We therefore expect China’s specialisation to increase over the coming years in the green tech arena. It will be interesting to see how different countries focus on different areas of green tech in the coming years as they seek to dominate this growing area.

 https://www.gov.uk/search/research-and-statistics?organisations%5b%5