Despite increasing patent volume worldwide, global innovation activity is slowing down, according to a report unveiled last week by the intellectual property and science department of Thomson Reuters, a leading business information provider.
The report, titled The Future Is Open: 2015 State of Innovation, examined global research and patent activity across 12 industries, including automotives, biotechnology, cosmetics and well-being, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, semiconductors and telecommunications.
Analysts scrutinized five years worth of global patents and scientific documents to outline the top companies, research institutions and technology areas that produce the highest volume of innovation.
"Innovation is at the heart of the global economy," said Basil Moftah, president of the IP and science department at Thomson Reuters. "It is the lifeblood of business, but it's difficult to measure.
"By dissecting innovation to its core components - the scientific research that informs initial discovery and the patents that protect and commercialize new ideas - we can begin to identify important trends that influence the future of the global economy," he said.
Worldwide patent volume reached a record high, the report found, with more than 2.1 million inventions in the studied sectors published in 2014. The top three industries showing the largest growth in patents were food, beverages and tobacco, increasing 21 percent; pharmaceuticals, up 12 percent; and cosmetics and well-being, growing 8 percent.
The Chinese Academy of Sciences topped the list of patent filers in the pharmaceuticals business, and ranked second in the list for the biotechnology sector.
Chinese petrochemical giants Sinopec and PetroChina took the top two spots in the list of patent filers in the oil and gas industry. China National Offshore Oil Corp also made it to the top five of the same list.
However, the report found that worldwide patent volume in the studied sectors increased just 3 percent last year from 2013. This marked the lowest growth rate since the end of the global recession in 2009. The total volume of scientific research documentations decreased 34 percent from 2009 to 2014.
The largest declines in patent and scientific research volume were in the medical devices and semiconductor industries.
The slowdown could be the result of a myriad of factors, from changes in legislation to economic, political, social or industry stresses, the report noted.
In "virtually every industry studied", the report found the trend toward "open innovation", which means companies often partner with academic institutions, individual researchers and other companies, even competitors in some cases.
Samsung was noted as "a perfect example" of the trend. Nearly 130 of every 10,000 patents the company files are done jointly with an academic institution.
The analysts also found that the traditional boundaries between industries and companies' areas of specialization continued to blur, largely because of the rise of the Internet of Things.
Many companies included in the study, such as Apple, Du Pont, General Electric and IBM, appeared among the top patent assignees in multiple industries outside of their core areas of focus.
Samsung, again, was noted as the "most extreme example", ranking among the top 25 patent assignees in nine of the 12 industries analyzed in the study.
"We are standing at a fascinating inflection point in the history of technological innovation," said Moftah. "The organizations in this study clearly recognize the challenges inherent in continuing to break new ground at the pace they've maintained for the last several years.
"They are taking clear strides, with strategies such as open innovation and aggressive expansion into new industries, to try to achieve even faster, better results," he said.
(China Daily 06/03/2015 page17)