On 5 April 2022, the European Patent Office (EPO) released data on European patent applications for 2021. With 8,442 filings across the year, Switzerland was ranked seventh overall behind the US (46,533), Germany (25,969), Japan (21,681), China (16,865), France (10,537) and South Korea (9,394).
However, on a per capita basis Switzerland was first by a wide margin with 969 applications per million residents. Switzerland had nearly double the per capita rate of second placed Sweden (488 per million). The figure for the US was 140 per million.
The total number of European patent applications reached 188,600 in 2021, a rise of 4.5% compared to 2020.
Digital communication (+9.4% compared with 2020) narrowly overtook medical technology (+0.8%) as the field with the largest number of European patent applications in 2021. Computer technology was the third strongest field, and the one with the steepest growth (+9.7%) among the top ten. The related fields of audio-visual technology (+24%) and semiconductors (+21%) saw unprecedented growth, albeit from a smaller base. The big increase in patent applications in digital technologies demonstrates the digital transformation, for example in smart urban mobility. Patent activity in pharmaceuticals (+6.9%) and biotechnology (+6.6%) also continued to boom, underlining high levels of innovation in vaccines and other areas of healthcare.
In Switzerland, medical technology made up the largest slice of patent applications in 2021, followed by consumer goods, metrology (measurement), electric machines, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and biotechnology.
Swiss companies filing high numbers of patents included Roche, ABB, Japan Tobacco, Philip Morris, Nestlé and Swatch.
At a cantonal level the canton of Vaud led on the volume of applications, followed by Zurich and Basel-City. Next were the cantons of Aargau, Geneva and Neuchâtel. Each of these six cantons made the top 30 most innovative regions in Europe by themselves.
With virtually no natural resources and no water port that can be used to create a hub for trading goods, Switzerland has had to focus on innovation to generate its income and wealth. Chemical and pharmaceutical products make up more than half of the value of Swiss exports.
EPO article (in English)