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New study: Fewer than 1 in 7 inventors in Europe are women

Women in science and the global economy: Is it time for change? Join the EPO’s virtual roundtable discussions

A new study released by the European Patent Office (EPO) finds that 13.2% of inventors in Europe are women. The study, the first of its kind to be published by the EPO, is based on the percentage of women inventors named in all patent applications to the EPO from 1978 until 2019. It highlights that while the women inventor rate in Europe has been rising in recent decades (up from only 2% in the late 1970s to 13.2% in 2019), a strong gender gap remains. The rate of women inventors is also far below the share of women among science and engineering researchers and graduates.

The EPO study aims to provide policymakers and the general public with insights and evidence on gender and patenting in Europe. It provides data on women inventors across different countries, time periods, technology fields and patent applicant profiles.

In the ranking of EPO member states (for the period 2010-19) Latvia (30.6%), Portugal (26.8%), Croatia (25.8%), Spain (23.2%) and Lithuania (21.4%) have the highest proportion of women inventors, while Germany (10.0%), Luxembourg (10.0%), Liechtenstein (9.6%) and Austria (8.0%) have the lowest.

Fewer than 1 in 7 inventors  in Europe are women

(click to enlarge)

Chemistry stands out as the technology sector with the highest share of women inventors (22.4% in 2010-19), while mechanical engineering (5.2%) has the lowest share. Within the chemistry sector, patent applications in the areas of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals have rates of over 30% women inventors. 

The report also highlights that patent applications from universities and public research organisations have a significantly larger share of women inventors (19.4% in 2010-19) than those from private business (10.0%).

Coinciding with the launch of the study, the European Patent Office is hosting "Women and IP innovation", a series of virtual roundtables to discuss the barriers to overcoming the gender gap in inventing and generate debate around the measures to enhance women's contributions to innovation. The panels will gather outstanding women inventors, heads of international patent offices, patent attorneys and representatives of academia.

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