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2023 was an historic year for the EPO. As we celebrated the successes of the past, we also looked forward to an exciting future for invention and patent protection in Europe. The achievements of this year – built on our talent, dedication to quality and a commitment to sustainability – will shape the Office for many years to come.

During 2023, we marked the 50th anniversary of the European Patent Convention (EPC) and witnessed the long-anticipated launch of the Unitary Patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC). We introduced the Observatory on Patents and Technology and launched a new EPO website. Moreover, as we neared the end of the Strategic Plan 2023 (SP2023), we began the transition to the next strategic plan: SP2028.

The 50th anniversary of the EPC was celebrated with a programme of activities and initiatives developed by 150 EPO staff volunteers. These activities and initiatives – spanning art, sports and the environment – celebrated the EPO's contribution to the all-important UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In June, we closed a decisive gap in Europe's IP architecture with the launch of the Unitary Patent, which today offers users across the globe a simpler, more cost-effective route to obtaining and maintaining patent protection in Europe. During the first six months, demand for the Unitary Patent exceeded expectations, securing cross-industry interest, especially from traditionally hard-to-reach entities like SMEs.

Boosting understanding and awareness of inventions and patents is key to making the patent system more accessible and transparent. In service of this, we founded the Observatory on Patents and Technology, which published studies on patents and invention against cancer, and hydrogen patents for a clean energy future.

Furthermore, we introduced the Deep Tech Finder, which enables potential investors and business partners to find out what inventions are being developed in specific technology fields and assess their levels of protection by European patents. Once again, outstanding inventors were recognised with the European Inventor Award and Young Inventors Prize, and we established the European Inventor Network, which funds inventors' outreach work to inspire the next generation of inventors in schools.

Stakeholders also benefitted from advances in our digital transformation. As well as launching a new external website, the Patent Workbench became the central hub of the patent grant process and we digitalised virtually all patent grant actions. Evolutions in the MyEPO services user interface now makes it easier for inventors, companies and their representatives to conduct their EPO business online. 

All of these initiatives contribute to our endeavour to deliver high-quality products and services. Building on this work, we revised and expanded the Stakeholder Quality Assurance Panels (SQAPs), with three sessions held in 2023. Feedback from these sessions has helped to inform the first publicly accessible Quality Action Plan for 2024, and the Quality Dashboard.

Quality is built on attracting, training and recruiting the best talent. In 2023, we saw more job applications and increased the overall diversity of staff. We invested in initiatives to foster knowledge sharing and reconnect staff, including the first Campus Days, and we held the first iLearn Together day, which brought together staff from the EPO and National Patent Offices.

We believe that the best staff need the best tools. As such, we invested in new digital technologies to improve workflows, enhance quality and boost efficiency. In 2023, we received a record 199 275 applications. To better navigate this growing mass of patent data, the EPO uses artificial intelligence tools, increasing efficiency and consistency.

The successful delivery of the five goals in SP2023 has put the EPO in a strong position to confront the challenges of the future. The Strategic Plan 2028, unanimously approved by the Administrative Council in March 2024, will build on these achievements. Its strategic priorities are an evolution of those which defined SP2023, all working in harmony towards the overarching goal of sustainability. This will be underpinned by five drivers: people, technologies, quality products and services, partnerships, and financial sustainability.

Stakeholders will be able to monitor the progress of SP2028 through a series of key performance indicators. As part of our commitment to transparency and knowledge sharing, the EPO launched the transparency portal, which makes available key documents and information related to operations and sustainability efforts as well as Administrative Council documents, annual reports and certifications. Crucially, the portal also equips member states with all the information they need to fulfil their governance role for the EPO.

Looking back over the five years of the SP2023, we have delivered close to 250 programmes, projects and activities. These have contributed to building an engaged, knowledgeable and collaborative organisation; simplifying and modernising the Office's IT systems; delivering high-quality products and services efficiently; building a European patent system with a global impact; and securing long-term sustainability. Because of this, we are now on a strong footing to confront challenges of the future and embrace its opportunities. Working closely with all our stakeholders, we will be guided by the five drivers of SP2028 in the evolution of this formula towards the ultimate goal: a more sustainable Office, patent system and society.

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