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For the first time in 11 years, Swiss patent applications fell in 2020

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The year 2020 ended a decade of growth in Swiss patent filings on the Old Continent. According to figures published Tuesday morning by the European Patent Office (EPO), 8,112 applications were transmitted, a decrease of 1.9% compared to the previous year.

We have to go back to 2009 to find an erosion of this activity: under the effect of the financial crisis, requests then fell by 2.9%. The pandemic also seems to have slowed the pace of research and development activities in Europe, an overall decline of 0.7% being noted by the EPO’s annual barometer.

Some countries such as France, Italy and Finland have managed to do well, unlike Switzerland or Germany, which saw requests fall by 3%. The fall is even more considerable in Great Britain (-6.8%) and the Netherlands (-8.2%).

Health in spirit

Like the countries, the fields of application have also experienced contrasting developments. Scientific and technological advances related to health have thus recorded sustained growth. At this stage, the role of the pandemic in this development cannot be quantified, the requests remaining confidential for 18 months.

Read also: Record fundraising in biotech in 2020

The players in biotechnology (+ 6.3%) and pharmaceutical research (+ 10.2%) have thus announced numerous inventions to the EPO. The increase is more modest in medical technologies (+ 2.6%). In the first two segments mentioned, requests from Switzerland increased by 14.3% and 2.4%. On the other hand, they dropped by 13.1% in medtech. The previous year, they were still slightly increasing.

To read: health, a new hostage in the framework agreement with the European Union

Measuring instruments such as watches plunged even more, 14.4%. This fall is changing the patent landscape in Switzerland since inventions for consumer goods have grown by 16%, this sector becoming the locomotive of Swiss innovation.

The canton of Vaud in the lead

Conquered in 2019 by Zurich, the canton of Vaud has once again become the main patent factory in the country with an 8.7% increase in applications. At the same time, requests plunged by 9.2% in its Zurich rival, which is overtaken by Basel-City, now the second most innovative canton in Switzerland. Geneva occupies fifth place in this ranking, appearing like Vaud among the 25 most inventive regions in Europe.

The multinational Nestlé is certainly not for nothing in the upturn in activity observed on the shores of Lake Geneva. The Vevey group has filed around 40 additional requests compared to 2019, turning out to be the third most active company in the country in innovation. It is preceded by ABB and Roche but is ahead of companies like Novartis or Syngenta.

Still European champion

However, Swiss firms are far from Samsung, Huawei or even LG, which file their requests by the thousands (3,276 requests for Samsung over the year, against 678 for ABB). It is also necessary to climb up to fifth place in the ranking by company to find the first European, the Swedish Ericsson. As in 2019, China (+ 9.9%) and South Korea (+ 9.2%) knocked more often than in turn on the EPO’s door.

Despite the decline observed, Switzerland undoubtedly remains the European champion when the number of patents requested is reduced to its population. With 966 deposits per million inhabitants, it is far ahead of Sweden (434) and Denmark (410), silver and bronze medalists on the podium.

Finally read: The misleading global innovation rankings

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