Patent literature is one important metric for the impact of government research funding on commercializing research.  For example, patent applications which result from inventions funded with federal research contracts/grants are supposed to include a federal funding clause.  The relative use of this clause can be researched.  We find a large impact on nanotech and cleantech patent activities.  The goal for federal funding by many is that a million dollars of government research will stimulate billions of dollars in economic impact.

Overall, for US patent publications, only 1.74% of the published applications show the government funding clause. For nanotech class 977 patent publications, however, the rate is much higher, 11%.

Consider lithium ion batteries, a seeming favorite of the Obama administration and the subject of a recent patent report.  Nanotech is having a major impact on lithium ion batteries.  This is a product market that moved from the millions to the billions.

We did a number of searches to review 977 nanotech patent publications directed to lithium ion batteries.  The searches turned up approximately 100-225 patent publications, depending on the degree of screening out of less related patents.  These searches revealed (i) a high percentage, 20%, resulted from federal funding, and (ii) 95% and higher patent publications published in 2008 to the present (less than 5% were published in 2007-2001).  A sharp transition is evident from 2007 to 2008 for increased patenting, and this transition was also noted in the recent patent report noted above.  We also noted from these searches that the most common country for the inventors by far was the United States, having four times the count of South Korea and ten times the count of Japan or China.  Nevertheless, much product development and manufacturing in this area is assocated with East Asia.

Hence, nanotech's impact on lithium ion battery innovation is coming out of the US.  Will the jobs also arise in the U.S.?

Data are taken as of publications through July 21, 2011.