WIPO Report Indicates Unprecedented Rise In Renewable Energy Tech Innovation 13/06/2014 by Julia Fraser for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)A new report commissioned by the World Intellectual Property Organization shows a huge increase in patent filings related to renewable energy technologies relative averages. The patent landscape in this area indicates that innovation is taking place across a greater geographical scope, and is shifting towards the global East. The report, presented this week, opens up questions for policymakers, and for further research regarding drivers for these trends and other measures of innovation. The report on “Renewable Energy Technology: Evolution and Policy Implications – Evidence from Patent Literature” was commissioned by WIPO’s Global Challenges department, and carried out by UK-based consulting firm Cambridge IP. It was presented at the 4th Global Challenges seminar at WIPO on 11 June. The full report is available here [pdf], and a brief here [pdf]. “Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges of our time,” said Quentin Tannock, chairman of Cambridge IP. Technologies to solve climate change related issues already exist, he said, but the challenge lies in effective deployment of these technologies, and in some cases this will require adaptation. The study aims to “inform policy discussions by providing evidence of innovation trends, geography, technology ownership and other facts,” said a WIPO press release. Patent landscaping is critical for providing detailed and useful information about what is happening in certain industries in terms of technology development and what commercial innovation is taking place, as well as markets and applications, said Tannock. The study also includes information about targets of investment and other market features, as well as case studies illustrating how patents are used and how the patent landscape information is useful. “Patents and patent landscapes only tell part of the story,” said Tannock. A number of other factors can “make a success or failure of a technology development or transfer exercise.” The report focussed on four areas of renewable technologies: biofuels, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy. It is “important to recognise that each area has its own drivers, technological mechanisms, transfer mechanisms,” said Sarah Helm, senior associate at Cambridge IP, warning of the tendency to group renewables together. The study shows “more patents have been filed in the last 5 years than in the previous 30 years” in all four areas, with a growth rate of 24 percent between 2006 and 2011, compared to 6 percent growth in average patent filings, she said. The highest rate of growth was seen in solar PV. The report also found a growing influence from Asia, with China and Korea contributing most to all four areas, and all the top 20 solar PV technology owners based in Asia. China filed the most patents in all areas but wind energy. “Patent concentrations have also decreased across three of the four patent landscapes (wind being the exception),” says the report. This indicates greater globalisation, higher competition between countries and a “growing influence of this market not just as a manufacturer but also as an innovator,” said Helm. Geographical shifts also indicate that “innovation is being adapted for specific uses, specific needs,” she said. In solar thermal, 16 of the top 20 owners were new, showing the “technology space is wide open for continued innovation from new players, new geographies,” said Helm. Main areas where innovation is taking place include manufacturing processes, energy storage and increasing efficiency. In biofuels, the study found a large amount of research was coming from universities with a resurgence in primary research and development. This area also involved more research partnerships, including public-private partnerships. Helm said it would be an interesting case to see how these partnerships are using R&D and commercialising it. The wind energy sector is also benefiting from technology transfer from other industries, shows the study, and the challenge lies in how to adapt those materials to the energy sector. Offshore use is also becoming an emerging player, said Helm, which speaks to the interests and capacity for renewables on a much larger scale. There are still challenges to be met in the deployment of these technologies, said Tannock, including standardisation and capacity building. WIPO Green, he said, is helping to address these challenges by providing an “appropriate, relatively standardised platform” for technology owners to promote their tech, and for those with need of tech to find them. “Initiatives like this are critical to foster effective international technology transfer,” he said. Critique, Further Research Areas Ahmed Abdel-Latif, from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, said this study was important to encourage better informed discussions in an otherwise polarised policy arena. Abdel-Latif in particular noted the contrast in the finding of a 24 percent rise in patent filings, with the financial crisis, stagnation and in some cases decrease in private investment in renewables, and phasing out of feed-in tariff programs. He said there is a need for more elaboration regarding the drivers of this apparent increase in innovation. He also said it would be interesting to look at why, in the areas of patenting, industrial capacity and deployment, countries that were scoring high on one are not necessarily the same as those scoring high on others. For example, Brazil has the biggest biofuel program in the world, he said, but doesn’t figure as one of the top technology owners. Similarly, China has the highest industrial capacity for solar PV but does not figure in the top technology owners. Abdel-Latif also expressed his scepticism regarding the apparent changing geography and role of emerging economies. He noted that although there is an increase in patenting in China and Egypt, there are large gaps between the top technology owners and followed by those coming from China and emerging economies. It is important to look at patent filings in contrast with patent owners, he said. The study also looked at triadic patents – those granted in the three big patent offices: the US, Japan and the European Patent Office – as an indication of patent quality. Abdel-Latif pointed out that the proportion of Chinese triadic patents was a much smaller proportion than the huge rise in Chinese patent filings. And he said that it was not surprising to see a higher number of public players in biofuels, as it is an area that requires heavy R&D and fundamental research, and “we are less at the commercial end of things.” Joachim Monkelbaan, senior consultant at the United Nations Environment Programme, reinforced the message that IP and spending on investment only provides part of the story. “Innovation is not always volume,” he said. Quality is also important. He said the scope of the study could be a bit broader and could include case studies of small and medium sized enterprises where most of the innovation takes place. Assessing the drivers of innovation is important, he said, such as the role of public procurement to create market for these technologies. Drivers of growth in the past have included cheap labour, resources and finance, but are unlikely to be drivers in the future of innovation, he added. Institutional and behavioural innovation, such as how people use technologies and what their motivations are, is also important to look at alongside technological innovation, said Monkelbaan. He said it would also be useful look at how much of the innovation in China for example was indigenous. When asked how this report could be used in international negotiations, Tannock said it shows these technology spaces are “incredible diverse” in terms of drivers, players, geographical markets and industries. And therefore a “one size fits all” approach may not be right for all policies, rather it indicates a granular level and well-informed approach to policymaking is needed. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Julia Fraser may be reached at email@example.com."WIPO Report Indicates Unprecedented Rise In Renewable Energy Tech Innovation" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.