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UK patent applications up – despite R&D shortfall

Professional Engineering

A blueprint-style view of Rolls-Royce's ACCEL electric plane. Rolls-Royce was the top UK filer of patents to the European Patent Office (Credit: Rolls-Royce)
A blueprint-style view of Rolls-Royce's ACCEL electric plane. Rolls-Royce was the top UK filer of patents to the European Patent Office (Credit: Rolls-Royce)

Patent applications filed by UK businesses to the European Patent Office rose by 7.8% in 2018, with companies submitting 5,736 throughout the year.

Rolls-Royce was the top UK filer, submitting 352 patent applications. BAE Systems was another prominent engineering company looking to the future, submitting 162 applications.

The UK increase, up from 2.4% in 2017, was above average compared to the 4.6% increase worldwide. The top-filing UK sectors were medical technology, computer technology and organic fine chemistry.

“This is a strong step up for the UK and indicates that businesses are continuing to focus on innovation activity, despite the challenging trading conditions,” said Karl Barnfather, chairman of intellectual property firm Withers & Rogers.

“Whilst the headline figures are positive, there is still room for improvement however. Businesses in Germany are filing four-times as many patent applications in Europe as businesses in the UK and businesses in France are filing double.”

The positive news came despite a “significant disparity in UK investment in R&D compared to other nations,” he added. “In the UK, investment in R&D equates to 1.7% of GDP  - significantly lower than in Germany, where it is 2.9% of GDP, the US where it is 2.7% of GDP and France where it is 2.2% of GDP. The UK Government’s commitment to raise R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 is an attempt to close the gap, but the UK is playing catch up. 

“Further investment in R&D is needed to place the UK at the forefront of the current technological revolution, which is bringing sweeping cross-industry changes.”


Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
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