Innovation increasingly collaborative and international: WIPO report

While innovative activity has grown increasingly collaborative and transnational worldwide, it originates in a small number of metropolitan hotspots in just five countries, says a report published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on Tuesday.

Between 2015 and 2017, some 30 metropolitan hotspots accounted for 69 percent of patents and 48 percent of scientific activity, the report says. Most of these hotspots were located in China, Germany, Japan, South Korea and the U.S., according to the 2019 edition of WIPO’s “World Intellectual Property Report,” which is based on the analysis of millions of patent and scientific publication records across several decades.

The report says that innovation has become more collaborative and international in nature. For instance, in the early 2000s, teams of scientists produced 64 percent of all scientific papers and teams of inventors were behind 54 percent of all patents. By the second half of the 2010s, these figures had increased to almost 88 percent and 68 percent, respectively.

The share of scientific collaborations with two or more researchers located in different countries grew to around 25 percent in 2017. For patents, the share of international co-inventions had increased to 11 percent until 2009, but has since slightly fallen, partly because of rapid growth in domestic collaborations in certain countries.

The top 10 metropolitan hotspots with most international collaboration were San Francisco-San Jose, New York, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Boston, Shanghai, London, Beijing, Bengaluru and Paris. These together accounted for 26 percent of all international co-inventions. The U.S. hotspots emerge as the most connected ones in the world.

The rise of these hotspots has coincided with a growing inter-regional polarization of incomes, high-skilled employment and wages within countries, the report says. As for regions that have fallen behind, the report calls for regional support and development policies to play an important role.

According to the report, a major driving force behind the transnational but concentrated innovation activities has been multinational companies, which have been increasingly locating their research and development (R&D) activities in hotspots that offer specialized knowledge and skills.

For example, Google’s headquarters in Silicon Valley only accounts for somewhat less than half of the company’s patenting activity, while Zurich, New York City and London appear as other important sources of the company’s inventor locations.

“Today’s innovation landscape is highly globally interlinked,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry. “Increasingly complex technological solutions for shared global challenges need ever larger and more specialized teams of researchers, which rely on international collaboration. It is imperative that economies remain open in the pursuit of innovation.”

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