New EPO study: European patents preferred tool for the commercialisation of inventions developed by Europe's universities and public research organisations


A new study published by the European Patent Office (EPO) today, 24 November 2020, shows that European universities and public research organisations use European patents as the main instrument to exploit their inventions commercially. It finds that these institutions already exploit more than a third (36%) of their inventions, with another 42% of their inventions planned to be exploited.

The study, entitled "Valorisation of scientific results - Patent commercialisation scoreboard: European universities and public research organisations", further finds that licensing is by far the preferred channel of commercialisation (accounting for 70% of the commercialisation of inventions), followed by R&D co-operation (14%) and the sale of patents (9%).

"Europe's universities and public research organisations are powerhouses of scientific research and are behind many breakthrough inventions," says EPO President António Campinos. "This report shows that they are using European patents to bring their new technologies out of the lab and into the market. But there are still significant barriers to commercialisation, and in transferring knowledge and technology to industry. These need to be addressed if Europe's economy is to harness the full potential of its research in order to keep pace with China and the US in innovation."

The data collated by the EPO also provides a profile of the entities universities and public research institutions opt to partner with for the purpose of commercialisation. According to the report, these include SMEs and large companies in almost equal measure (around 40% each), and most of the successful collaborations (74%) are concluded with partners from the same country. However, the report also shows that institutions in southern and eastern European countries do not have such local partners to the same extent, and therefore more frequently seek to find commercialisation partners in other European countries.

The study furthermore identifies the challenges facing universities and public research organisations in successfully commercialising their inventions. The main reason why two thirds of inventions are not (yet) commercialised is that the invention has not reached proof of concept, either because it is still in development (63%) or because commercial opportunities could not be identified (55%). Failure to find interested partners (38% of respondents) and a lack of resources (25%) are reported as the third and fourth most important challenges. They are particularly critical for southern and eastern European countries.

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