A new patent insight report on space-borne sensing and green applications



Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations member states, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims to promote and map the way for a peaceful and sustainable future. At its heart are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that call for urgent action at both governmental and global levels. The big question is how to achieve these goals, and here it’s clear that innovation will play a crucial role.

Patents reward innovation by helping to attract investment, secure licensing deals and provide market exclusivity. This makes using patent filing statistics a great way to measure innovation and examine the directions that innovators are taking in various fields.

Space-borne remote sensing – using satellites to measure the effectiveness of policies and objectives – can help address environmental and sustainability challenges. A new patent insight report based on a joint study by the EPO and the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) looks at patent filing trends in the fast-growing area of space-borne sensing and green applications.



Figure 1: Comparison of growth rates (by publication year) of patent filing activity in green applications of space-borne sensing and overall

The study reveals that from 2001 to 2020, filing activity in green applications of space-borne sensing surged by 1800%, a remarkable increase when compared to the 400% growth in filings overall (see figure 1 above). This increase should come as no surprise, when you consider the vast potential of space-borne remote sensing to support the UN sustainability agenda by providing data critical to many environmental indicators of direct relevance to various SDGs.

The report also covers the geographical distribution of patent filing activities. Interestingly, about 23% of all international patent families are filed from applicants in EPC member states. A further breakdown shows the distribution of patent filing activity by member state (see figure 2 below). As might be expected, European patent filing activities largely take place in the traditional spacefaring nations of France, Germany and the United Kingdom.  


Figure 2: European patent filing activity by EPC member state

By analysing the purpose of the invention the study created a link between the technologies and specific SDG targets and indicators, For example, improving the measurement of soil moisture can help to achieve "zero hunger" (SDG 2). By identifying patents related to soil moisture, the study was able to report on how the innovation activity of companies or even countries may contribute to this particular development goal.  


Find this patent knowledge and more in the latest patent insight report on space-borne sensing and green applications.

Through its environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies, the Office is committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This study on remote sensing from satellites explores technologies that could contribute to the following SDGs: UN SDG 2 (Zero Hunger); UN SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being); UN SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation); UN SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy); UN SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure); UN SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities); UN SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production); UN SDG 13 (Climate Action); UN SDG 14 (Life Below Water) and UN SDG 15 (Life on Land).

Further reading

Patent insight report: space-borne sensing and green applications

Data for the space-borne sensing and green applications patent insight report