The European Patent Office (EPO) released the Patent Index 2020, which gives an overview of the filing activities in the EU during the past year. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic’s dramatic impact on all aspects of the economy, the number of patent applications filed only slightly declined with a 0.7% decrease compared to 2019.

In this scenario, Italy emerges as one of the fastest-growing European countries in the healthcare innovation sector, achieving an increase in applications well above the average in pharmaceutical patents. Also worth noting is a considerable growth in medical technology, which is now the fourth most relevant technical field in the country.

Medical technologies, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology all registered strong performance overall at the EPO level as well. Healthcare innovation was the main driver of European patent applications in 2020, with medical technologies in the lead spot among all tech sectors and major growth in the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology fields.

These three fields lead the trend with growths of +2.6%, +10.2% and +6.3% respectively. Just these three technical fields alone comprise some 16.7% of all patent applications filed with the EPO in 2020.

Interestingly, the EPO Patent Index 2020 itself attributes most of the increase of patent filings in the medical technology, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology fields to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in encouraging innovation. In this framework, European countries maintained a share of almost half of all patent applications filed, while China (+9.9%) and South Korea (+9.2%) saw the most significant growth.

Looking more in detail at the performance of EU countries, applications from Germany, Europe’s largest country of origin, decreased by 3.0% in 2020, similarly to those from The Netherlands (-8.2%) and UK (-6.8%). Italy, on the other hand, saw a remarkable growth of 2.9% and is currently ranked 10th for the overall number of patent applications filed.

Italy registered in particular a considerable growth in the medical technology, pharmaceuticals, and chemical engineering sectors, in line with the general trend outlined above. In particular, Italy plays a key role in pharmaceutical innovation with a significant growth of over 22% compared to 2019, preceded only by the furniture and games sector. Moreover, Italy registered a 6.0% increase of applications in the medical technology sector, which is above the average increase in the top-10 countries for the sector.

Italy thus continued the positive trend in terms of innovation growth already ongoing over the past years, in particular in the healthcare sector that is one of the highlights of its industrial landscape.