The European Medical Technology in Figures

Innovation Last update 12.04.2021

Key Facts


average global R&D investment rate

18-24 months

product lifecycle


field with the most European patent applications in 2020

Medical technology is characterised by a constant flow of innovations, which are the results of a high level of research and development within the industry, and of close cooperation with the users. The average global Research & Development investment rate (R&D spending as a percentage of sales) is estimated to be around 8% in the medical technology sector 1. Products typically have a lifecycle of only 18-24 months before an improved product becomes available.

In 2020, more than 14,200 patent applications were filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) in the field of medical technology representing a 2.6% growth in patent applications compared to the previous year. The medical technology field accounts for 8% of the total number of applications, the highest among all the sectors in Europe. It has been the leading field for 9 of the last 10 years. In comparison, around 8,600 applications were filed in the pharmaceutical field and around 7,200  in the field of biotechnology. 38% of the medical technology patent applications were filed from EPO countries (including EU27, UK, Norway and Switzerland) and 62% from other countries, the majority of which come from the US (39%).

While over the last decade there has been a continuous rise in the number of EPO filings in the field of medical technology, pharma and biotech patent applications were relatively stagnant. Furthermore, the ratio of granted patents to patent applications in the medical technology sector has been continuously growing in the past years reaching 73% in 2020. In comparison, this ratio is less than 45% in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology field.

Country of origin of medical technology patent applications - 2020 2

Top 10 technical fields in patent application - 2020 2

Evolution of European patents by technical field - 2020 2