Water is life. We all know it. Yet two billion people live without access to safe drinking water. To commemorate World Water Day, which has been held on 22 March every year since 1993, we would like to take a look at the role innovation plays in promoting water security around the world.

World water day

The study "Trends in water-related technological innovation" published by the OECD in 2020 uses patent data to explore trends in water-related patents since 1990. The data is retrieved from the EPO's PATSTAT database, which can be used to track trends in technology.

For example, the graph below shows the trends over time in methods or installations for obtaining or collecting drinking water (IPC E03B), including other technology areas which are co-assigned with E03B (IPC sub-classes). This monitoring is beneficial for analysts, governments and corporations alike. In particular, it also helps decision-makers implement policies that stimulate innovation in a particular area.

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Figure 1 – Trends over time for inventions in the field E03B, including co-assignments of further IPC symbols

The OECD's main findings showed that patenting in water-related technologies has been steadily on the rise. Technologies related to water conservation in thermoelectric power and water storage have seen a particularly significant boom. The results also show that the US, South Korea, Germany and China were the top inventor countries of water-related technologies by patent count. Incidentally, these countries are also where demand for water-related technologies is highest, as shown by the high demand for patent protection in that field.


Ready to put your skills and knowledge to the test?

If you're a more advanced user, use PATSTAT Online to find out which inventions related to methods or installations for obtaining or collecting drinking or tap water have received the most family forward citations. (Hint: use the Patent Indicator feature in PATSTAT under the Statistics tab.) If you don't yet have PATSTAT Online but would like to give this exercise a try, you can sign up for a free trial.

If you're not yet familiar with PATSTAT Online and would like to try out a simpler search exercise, use Espacenet to find the top inventor and applicant countries for methods or installations for obtaining or collecting drinking or tap water. (Hint: use the Filters function in Espacenet.)

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