August 2016

A select group of nations are leading the way in innovation and breakthrough technologies, with 3D printing, robotics and nanotechnology set to dominate the agenda for years to come.

Where previous technological advancements like airplanes, antibiotics and semiconductors reshaped the industrial (and social) landscapes in the past, the trio of nanotechnology, 3D printing and robotics are tipped to do the same in the near future.

That’s according to this year’s World Intellectual Property Report, which looks at patent applications all over the world to find out who is most active in key areas of innovation.

US and Japan

And, looking at those three disciplines, it is clear that the US and Japan are leading the way, thanks to companies such as Toyota, Honda, 3D Systems and Stratasys.

In fact, Japan and the US, when combined with just France, Germany, South Korea and the UK, make up three-quarters of all-time patent filings across the three disciplines.

This elite group of six are streets ahead of everybody else, with just China making any inroads on their power positions.

Actually, the last 10 years has seen the rising superpower account for 25pc of all patents in 3D printing and robotics, and 15pc of all nanotechnology patents in the same timeframe.

Economic output about to change

“Historical technological breakthroughs have been at the root of long-lasting expansions in economic output,” said World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) director general Francis Gurry.

“Successful innovation, at the company level or across the wider economy, requires perseverance, particularly in periods of anemic growth when innovation budgets are under pressure.

“We need to reinforce the environments that give rise to the breakthrough technologies of tomorrow.”

Samsung catches the eye

When looking at the three disciplines in isolation, Japan is, unsurprisingly, the king of robotics. Eight of the top 10 patent applicants come from the Asian state, driven by Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Denso, Hitachi, Panasonic, Yaskawa and Sony.

The two other companies in this list are Bosch, from Germany, and Samsung, from Korea.

Samsung, in fact, dominates the nanotechnology patent race, despite US companies collectively filing the most overall – six Japanese companies feature in the top ten, with HP and IBM also featuring.

The US is again ahead in terms of 3D printing, with 3D Systems and Stratasys top of the field in this regard.

Here is WIPO’s infographic on the report, which you can click on to view in a larger format.

World Intellectual Property Report 2015

Map of Earth image via Shutterstock