Chief Economist

Patents for tomorrow’s plastics

The EPO Chief Economist unit aims to provide high-level expertise and analysis and to foster well-informed policy debate on issues relating to patents, innovation and economic growth. It develops projects to help the EPO understand better how patents are used and what their economic impact is. Externally it promotes the EPO as a major player in the public arena (in academia, expert forums and the press, among policymakers, etc.).

The current Chief Economist is Yann Ménière (contact:

Patents for tomorrow's plastics

The rate at which plastics are produced (about 50 million tonnes per year) is outpacing our ability to manage the resulting waste. New technologies will help us all to better reduce, reuse and recycle plastics. Our study reveals the innovation trends in chemical and biological recycling, as well as the growth in research into plastics that can self-repair and are easier to recycle.

Patents and the energy transition

Innovation is central to the transition to low-carbon energy (LCE) technologies. Traditional renewable energy sources (wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal) have reached maturity and patenting activity here is slowing. This report shows the main drivers for LCE innovation today are cross-cutting technologies like batteries, hydrogen, smart grids and carbon capture, as well as in end-use applications like electric vehicles.

Intellectual property rights and firm performance in the EU

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and larger firms in the European Union perform very differently with regard to their ownership and use of intellectual property rights (IPRs). Although only a smaller proportion of SMEs (ca 9%) own or use patents, trade marks or designs when compared to larger firms (ca 60%), the advantage that these IPRs provide in terms of revenue per employee is far greater for SMEs (+68%) than for larger firms (+18%).

Patents and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The new data-driven economy is enabled by constellations of smart, connected devices, by faster wireless internet, by "big data" and artificial intelligence. Annual growth rates for patent applications for these technologies are around 20% - some five times greater than for all technologies as a whole. Whilst some sectors are becoming obsolete, others are emerging, with leadership in a variety of fields changing rapidly.

Valorisation of scientific results - Patent commercialisation scoreboard: European universities and public research organisations

Universities and public research organisations are important users of the European patent system. This study reports how they valorise their European patents and also sheds a light on the challenges they face bringing their technologies to the market.

Innovation in batteries and electricity storage – a global analysis based on patent data

EPO’s first joint study with the International Energy Agency underlines the key role that battery innovation is playing in the transition to clean energy technologies. It provides global data and analysis based on international patent families filed in the field of electricity storage since 2000.

Economic research agenda

The Chief Economist unit aims to produce evidence-based research and advanced analysis on a range of policy issues relevant to the EPO.

  • Role of patents in economic growth, performance and employment
  • Economic analysis of the European patent system and the expected impact of the forthcoming unitary patent and Unified Patent Court
  • Development of new patent-based indicators and analysis of trends and policy issues, particularly in technology fields related to climate change and Industry 4.0
  • Economic analysis of the role of patents in the development of markets for technology

Main external partner organisations

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