average global R&D investment rate
field with the most European patent applications in 2021
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 co-operation with users. The average global R&D investment rate (R&D spend as a percentage of sales) is estimated to be around 8% in the medical technology sector1. Products typically have a lifecycle of only 18-24 months before an improved product becomes available.
In 2021, more than 15,300 patent applications were filed with the European Patent Office (EPO) in the field of medical technology, representing a 0.8% growth in patent applications compared to the previous year2. The medical technology field accounts for 8.1% of the total number of applications, the 2nd highest among all industrial sectors in Europe. 41% of these patent applications were filed from EPO countries (including EU27, UK, Norway and Switzerland) and 59% from other countries, of which the US filed most applications (38%).
In comparison, around 9,000 applications were filed in the pharmaceutical field and around 7,600 in the field of biotechnology. While over the last decade the number of EPO filings in the field of medical technology has doubled, pharma and biotech patent applications remained relatively stagnant. Furthermore, the ratio of granted patents to patent applications stands at 55% in 2021. In contrast, the same ratio is 33% in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology field (Evolution of European patents by technical field Graph).