EPO press release
Munich, 16 March 2021

Despite the pandemic, Belgian companies, universities and research institutions filed almost as many patent applications with the European Patent Office (EPO) in 2020 as they did in 2019. According to the current EPO Patent Index - published on 16 March 2021 - the total number of patent applications hardly decreased compared to 2020: from 2422 to 2400 (-0.9%). That is the second highest number of applications ever submitted from Belgium to the EPO, after the record figure of 2019.

The number of Belgian patent applications for medical technology and chemical engineering spiked, while traditional sectors such as raw materials/metallurgy, measuring equipment and transport recorded a sharp decline. Biotechnology was the absolute number one technology in Belgium, with the highest number of applications.

"Despite the difficult climate in the past year, Belgian companies, universities and research institutions still filed many patent applications with the EPA, especially for technologies with an extensive R&D track in the life sciences field," said António Campinos, President of the EPA. "This is obviously good news, as I am convinced that science, research and innovation, supported by a strong intellectual property rights system, will contribute to a healthier and more sustainable world and promote economic recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic.”

The total number of European patent applications in 2020 fell by just 0.7%, almost the same as in 2019. In total, the EPO received 180,250 applications last year - just short of the record figure of 181,532 in 2019.

Solvay, imec and Umicore largest Belgian applicants, Ontex nicely in 8th place with 50 filed patent applications, just ahead of VIB and VITO!

Solvay was again the most active applicant to the EPO with 214 patent applications, followed by imec - the micro-electronics and nanotechnology research centre in Leuven - with 158 applications, Umicore (96), Agfa (81), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (81) and Universiteit Gent (62). Including the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) in ninth place, there were two universities and two research institutes in the Belgian top ten - which is more than in most other countries. 

Some striking facts at European level:

  • health, the main driver of innovation in 2020
  • The number of patent applications at the EPO remained constant despite the pandemic;
  • Life science inventions in full swing, digital technologies still attractive, transport declining
  • Strong growth in China and South Korea; European, Japanese and US inventors filed fewer patent applications;
  • Samsung, Huawei and LG lead the ranking of applicants;
  • Belgium ranks 13th among the largest countries of origin of patent applications in 2020.

Some striking facts at Belgian level:

In particular for Belgium, the number of European patent applications from Belgium remains high thanks to strong growth in medical innovation

  • Belgian innovators filed almost as many applications with the European Patent Office in 2020 as in 2019;
  • The number of patent applications for medical technology increased by 42.5%, compared to a 15% decrease for the transport sector;
  • Medical innovations today account for almost a quarter of the Belgian total;
  • Solvay, IMEC and Umicore largest Belgian applicants;
  • Flemish Brabant is number one among the Belgian provinces in terms of the origin of patent applications. 

As far as the regions are concerned, Flanders is in the lead with 1,580 applications (+5.1%), i.e. a 65.9% share, followed by Wallonia (19.9%) and the Brussels-Capital Region (14.2%).