It was a year of accelerated momentum. Another year in which the culmination of previous years' measures yielded significant results, propelling us even closer to our goal of becoming a more modern and sustainable organisation. It marked our transformation from an Office navigating the uncertainty of the pandemic to an Office confidently operating in a changed landscape.

With this fresh momentum came exceeded targets. By the end of 2022, progress on the completion of our Strategic Plan 2023 was significantly ahead of schedule. In the same time we also managed a record number of filings – a clear testament to the increasing value that inventors attribute to the power of patent protection. These are the inventors who hold the key to a more sustainable future. They are also the creative minds who hold the key to economic growth in these uncertain times. A recent report co-authored by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the EUIPO found that IPR-intensive industries contribute nearly half of the EU's GDP.

But the European patent system's ability to deliver this kind of positive impact rests squarely on high-quality patents. And 2022 saw many initiatives launched in support to ensure the European patent system continues to be synonymous with quality. In our efforts to drive up the quality of our products and services, we have made ongoing investments in our staff, processes and tools.

In 2022 we met our examiner recruitment targets thanks to effective talent pipelines, and launched a new Pan-European Seal Young Professionals Programme to foster the next generation of IP professionals.  Attracting top talent in an increasingly competitive market is vital to address the complexity of challenges emanating from emerging technology fields.

Our digital transformation journey has continued to reach new milestones, including the digitalisation of the backend of the patent grant process and improvements to our search and classification tool which, among other things, delivered gains in search performance – a key gatekeeper for quality. Critically, digitalisation has also been an enabler for our New Ways of Working pilot, giving staff unprecedented flexibility in their ability to balance their work at home with their work in the office.

While New Ways of Working offers staff flexibility, our new Patent Quality Charter offers a common vision. Drafted in full consultation with stakeholders, the Charter establishes a shared responsibility and a harmonised understanding of patent quality, emphasising its singular importance as our guiding principle. Ultimately, it has been designed to ensure that the delivery of our products and services consistently meets the highest standards for our users in a fast-changing digital environment.

Serving as a powerful testament to the quality delivered by our Office is the continuing growth of our network.

Montenegro became the EPO's 39th Contracting State in October, and an invitation to accede to the European Patent Convention was extended to the Republic of Moldova in December, with a view to their becoming the EPO's 40th Contracting State. The growing membership enhances the sustainability of Europe's patent system by fostering collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and a wider reach.

These are the developments that will help to build an Office that is both current and future-proof, recognising that reinforcing patent quality is intricately linked to strengthening environmental, social, governance, and financial sustainability. Last year, we continued our journey to become a more sustainable organisation by reducing CO2 emissions by more than 700 tonnes, while the launch of the Vienna Green Hub project helps pave the way to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. At the same time our financial sustainability achieved a solid financial footing with a coverage ratio of 70.7% of the gap between our assets and our liabilities.

All these developments couldn't have been possible without our staff and other stakeholders working together. We therefore sincerely hope that this Annual Review not only charts the progress being made together to create a more sustainable EPO, but also reflects the work being done to build a stronger patent system that reflects the aspirations of all. We can now say with some confidence that we are more robust, resilient and agile than at any other time in our history. With this in mind, we are well-positioned to make the launch of the upcoming Unitary Patent a success, and to build further on the 50 years of the European Patent Convention that we will celebrate later this year. There could be no tribute more fitting to the efforts of all those who have worked to build a truly beneficial and high-impact European patent system.

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