Paul van Gerven
10 December 2020

Between 2010 and 2018, global patent filings for technology related to smart connected objects grew at an average annual rate of almost 20 percent – nearly five times faster than the average of all technology fields. Spanning the IoT, big data, 5G and AI, these “fourth industrial revolution technologies” (4IR) now make up 10 percent of worldwide patent activity, according to a study published by the European Patent Office (EPO).

“What we’re seeing isn’t just an acceleration of the development of information and communications technology – it’s a major shift towards a fully data-driven economy,” commented EPO president António Campinos. “While Europe isn’t growing as fast as other regions, our strength lies in the diversity of our innovation ecosystem, the strong performance of some of our smaller countries with their high levels of specialization, and some innovative regional clusters.”

The US is a clear leader in 4IR and is increasing its lead over runners-up Europe and Japan. US patent filing activity has been growing annually on average by 18.5 percent since 2010, while Europe’s and Japan’s growth rates are 15.5 and 15.8 percent, respectively. China’s 4IR inventiveness is quickly approaching that of Europe and Japan, growing at 39.3 percent.

Despite its relatively small size in terms of population and GDP, the Netherlands is a significant contributor to 4IR, covering 1.5 percent of world and 7.7 percent of European filings. At 10.2 percent, however, the Dutch average annual growth rate of patenting activity is below the European average of 15.5 percent and the world average of 19.7 percent.