“Hydrogen Patents for a Clean Energy Future” a detailed analysis on innovation in clean-energy hydrogen technologies during the past 20 years based on international patent filings, has just been released by the European Patent Office (EPO) and International Energy Agency (IEA).

Patents continue to be reliable indicators of the state and direction of science as well as innovation activities. Based on international patent families (IPFs), the report offers a distinctive view at where green hydrogen investment has been concentrated and where it is headed. IPFs are trustworthy stand-ins for inventive activity, the paper claims, as each one represents an innovation valuable enough to be protected by several patent offices.

The Study reveals that the EU and Japan have led the globe in hydrogen-related IPFs since 2011 with 28% and 24%, respectively, throughout these three value chains—(i) production, (ii) storage, distribution and transformation, and (iii) end-user applications.

Since 2001, more than half of hydrogen-related IPFs have concentrated on production technology innovation, with the remaining half split equally between end-use application innovation and storage, distribution, and transformation technology innovation.

Over the past ten years, industrial technologies have changed from carbon-intensive techniques to those aimed at decarbonizing hydrogen generation. The Study focuses specifically on electrolysis, including polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM), solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC), and alkaline water electrolysis technologies, and claims that 80% of IPFs in hydrogen production since 2011 have been caused by climate change.

The study emphasizes a significant link between money acquisition for pioneers in hydrogen technology and patents. While less than 30% of start-up businesses engaged in hydrogen technology-related activities submitted one or more IPFs between 2011 and 2020, this group of businesses earned 55% of the first funding in the sector. Particularly for enterprises exploring low-emissions technology, this percentage rises sharply to around 80% when going on to later funding rounds, highlighting the significance of patenting for fledgling companies in this field.

That is to say, even while only 117 of the 391 start-up businesses filed IPFs pertaining to hydrogen between 2011 and 2020, those 117 businesses attracted 55% of the venture capital investment offered for the early, late, and IPO/post-IPO stages.

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