Overall global innovation activity has slowed down, with 8% year-over-year growth in the number of inventions appearing in published patents, compared to growth of 14% last year, according to this year's The State of Innovation report by Clarivate.

Analysis of 12 industries has revealed a large slowdown in patented inventions from China, which could be attributed to the slowing investment in R&D in that country.  There is also evidence of increasing trends towards blurring boundaries across sectors.  For example, the telecoms industry demonstrates increasing focus on software and apps to control broader areas of our lives, such as other appliances in the home, and less on further evolving physical phone design.  Similarly, home appliances (domotics) are increasingly being developed to ‘communicate’ with each other and save energy.

The changing landscape towards innovation is reflected by a shift from silos to open innovation and the convergence of technologies with increasing focus on services rather than product.  An increase in monetization of IP with increasing globalization opportunities and a drive for quality over quantity could also be impacting the current trends.

Innovation growth takes a rain check

Although still on an upward trajectory, global innovation activity as a whole slowed down this year with an 8 percent year-over-year growth in the number of inventions appearing in published patents, compared with a growth of 14 percent last year and an average growth of 12 percent for the five-year period 2011-2015. That slowdown was driven largely by China, which now accounts for over six of every 10 patented inventions worldwide. China saw a drop in patenting activity with a 9 percent year-over-year growth 2015-2016, compared to 25 percent growth 2014-2015. That in turn could be due to the Chinese stall in economic growth and corresponding slackening in R&D investment (estimated GERD growth was 8.5 percent in 2016, down from 8.9 percent in 2015).

Over the long term, however, a look at the overall global trend from 2009–2016 shows a consistently active and robust commitment to innovation.

In terms of specific industries, innovation is being driven by consumables (food, tobacco, brewing, cosmetics), life sciences (biotech, pharma) and selected hi-tech (aerospace, semiconductors, information technology).

Research and innovation

In the lifecycle of innovation, discovery forms the bedrock of developments. Academic research and education are at the start of the innovation process, but are insufficient by themselves. The process of converting new ideas into commercially successful novel services and products is driven by entrepreneurship and relies on the notion of return on investment. That return is afforded by patents. Analysis shows that scientific and scholarly research typically precedes discovery and the protection of innovation rights by a number of years. In order to have a fuller understanding of how technology is unfolding, it’s important to also consider developments and trends in academic research as captured in the scientific literature.

In terms of specific industries, innovation is being driven by consumables (food, tobacco, brewing, cosmetics), life sciences (biotech, pharma) and selected hi-tech (aerospace, semiconductors, information technology). A look across the last decade and research related to the 12 innovation areas, as contained in the Web of Science, shows that after a dip during the early years of the global economic crisis, output has resumed a strong pattern of growth, although a dip in 2016 is notable and may reflect the recent climate of uncertainty and accompanying slowdown in research funding.

Join our panel discussion in a free webinar on October 24 at 4PM to discover more on the slowing pace of innovation, with IP experts Judge Rader, Brian Hinman and Stephan Wolke.