Europe accounts for nearly half of all 3D printing patent applications

The number of patent applications related to 3D printing grew at an average annual rate of 36% from 2015 to 2018, more than ten times the average yearly growth of all applications filed with the European Patent Office in the same period combined, according to a new study.

The report, issued this week to coincide with a four-day conference hosted by the EPO centred on 3D printing and IP, claims Europe is a global leader in AM with 47% of all AM patent applications filed from 2010 to 2018, 7,863 in total, belonging to European inventors and businesses.

“The surge in additive manufacturing is part of the broader, rapid rise of digital technologies overall, confirming that the digital transformation of the economy is fully reflected in patent applications reaching the EPO,” said EPO President António Campinos. “Europe has become a global hub for innovation in fast-growing digital fields, including additive manufacturing technologies. This strength is clearly reflected in the list of top AM applicants, with European inventors and businesses submitting almost half of the patent applications in the past decade.”

While it will come as little surprise to learn that Germany accounted for 19% of applications globally, the UK came in second place in Europe at 5% (833 patent applications filed), exceeding its share in patenting in all technologies at the EPO. France, the Netherlands and Switzerland followed closely, each with contributions of around 4%. However, when looking at the figures against the size of the economy (dividing number of AM patent applications by the gross domestic product of a country), Switzerland takes first place with by far the highest number of AM patent applications per euro of economic output, while Germany shifts to fourth place.

The findings also show that the UK boasts a high degree of specialisation in AM patenting with an RTA (revealed technological advantage) index of 1.2, one of the highest of all European countries, particularly in the digital aspects of AM and in AM application domains. Taking a more localised look, Derby was pinpointed as the most important British region for AM innovation, ranking 7th on a list of 15 major European AM innovation centres. 

establishment of its GE Additive vertical in 2016. From Europe, Siemens came in third, followed by BASF in 5th place and Rolls Royce in 7th, the highest ranking British company with 248 patents.

While two out of three patent applications were filed by very large companies, the data also showed how smaller companies are an integral part of the AM industry’s growth with SMEs featuring 15 to 1,000 employees accounting for 10% of applications, while those with even fewer than 15 employees made up 12%.

Read the full report here.

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