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Spain breaks record for patent applications despite the pandemic | Economy

Two workers work on the installation of an Iberdrola photovoltaic plant.
Two workers work on the installation of an Iberdrola photovoltaic plant.

Spain registered a record number of patent applications at the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2021, with the highest growth rate in the last ten years, 8.9%, despite the pandemic. The Patent Index that the EPO publishes this Tuesday shows that the 1,954 patent applications that were registered in Spain last year represent a strong recovery after the 4.5% drop in 2020. The growth rate of patent applications Spanish companies was also well above the European Union average, which stood at 2.7%.

“This is good news for Spain,” the spokesman for the EPO, Luis Berenguer, tells Efe, explaining that the impression is that “the industry is already leaving the pandemic behind and adapting to the new needs of the market,” with growth in sectors “very related to the new normality”. Health and clean energy technologies are the main drivers of Spanish innovations, highlighting sectors such as pharmaceuticals, which grew by 7.4%, and “electrical machinery, appliances and energy”, which increased by 22.2%.

Medical technologies and biotechnology, with growth of 17.6% and 24.8% respectively, occupy the third and fourth place, and, together with pharmaceutical innovations, make health technologies represent around a quarter of all Spanish patent applications.

The automotive industry is also recovering after the fall in 2020, with robust growth of 15.8% and 77.4% in fields such as transportation and “engines, pumps and turbines”, respectively. Berenguer points to the drive for health innovations as a reflection of the pandemic and the recovery of the traditional weight of the automotive industry, but highlights that “the big star” is renewable energy, “a trend at the European level in which Spain has a very significant role.”

The majority of Spanish technological innovations come from the three autonomous communities with the most patent applications: Catalonia, which registers 33.5% of the total, the Community of Madrid, which represents 19.5%, and the Basque Country, with 11.4%. The report shows that the main Spanish applicants for patents are research institutes and universities, among which the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) stands out, a characteristic that differentiates Spain from countries such as Germany or France, where private initiative has a greater weight.

“Growth shows that more innovation is being supported,” says Berenguer, who adds that “public research efforts continue to be the main drivers of innovation in Spain”, although he highlights the importance of a “transfer from the public sector to the private”. In Europe as a whole, the EPO received 188,600 applications in 2021, 4.5% more than the previous year, with digital communication and health technologies as the main drivers of innovation.

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The large European locomotives experienced a certain stagnation, with a slight increase of 0.3% in the case of Germany and a small decrease of 0.7% in that of France, while the Nordic countries reached growth rates of more than 10 %.

The overall growth of patent filings at the EPO in 2021 was largely driven by filings from China, up 24% from 2020, and the United States, up 5.2%. Asian companies led the application for patents in Europe, with China’s Huawei and South Korea’s Samsung and LG standing out.

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