AsianScientist (Aug. 28, 2014) – According to a study by the Technische Universität München (TUM), Asian companies apply for a substantially higher number of patents in electrochemical energy storage systems than their European or US counterparts.
Wind and solar power are inherently intermittent energy sources. If a large amount of electricity is to be produced with renewable energy sources in the future, excess energy will have to be stored during productive periods so that these fluctuations can be compensated for. However, existing storage capacities are far from adequate for the purpose.
Science and industry are therefore working on new, better technologies. One important focus lies on battery systems that used to be too expensive or unsophisticated to be employed on a large scale. Knowing which technologies are the subject of more intensive development activities and will enter the market in the near future is strategically important to all stakeholders in the energy sector, whether from the industry, political sphere or science.
As companies do not readily divulge their R&D activities, economists at the TUM have analyzed worldwide patent applications relating to electrochemical energy storage between 1991 and 2011, as part of a large interdisciplinary project on battery storage.
The study shows that the annual number of new patent families, i.e. groups of patent applications and patents for similar or equivalent inventions (e.g. applications in different countries), rose by 110 percent from 2006 to 2011.
The most patent applications by far were filed by developers of lithium batteries: in 2011, there were 4,900 new patent families. In second place in terms of the number of patent applications filed are lead batteries with only around 580 new patent families in 2011.
The analysis indicates that Asian companies will dominate the market, submitting almost four times as many patent applications as their European counterparts. In 2011, 2,100 applications for patent families relating to electrochemical energy storage could be attributed to Asian developers; 530 to European, and only 410 to US developers. Despite a high initial figure in 2001, the Asians were able to increase their applications by 220 percent; while European applications rose by 260 percent and US applications by 70 percent.
If one considers the quality of the portfolio, Asian companies still hold a very dominant position. The scientists used an index that takes both quantitative data and the number of application citations into consideration. According to this index, the top ten in the lithium batteries segment include eight Japanese and one Korean company, with Fuji in the lead. Only one US company, Valence Technology, is found here. The most successful European institution, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), is only ranked 25th.
“These results raise interesting questions about research policy and development management. Further studies could, for instance, look at which strategies have given certain companies a technological lead in this field, and which lessons may be learned from this by European and US competitors,” says Prof. Isabell M. Welpe, who holds the Chair for Strategy and Organization.
The article can be found at: Müller et al. (2014) Monitoring Innovation in Electrochemical Energy Storage Technologies: A Patent-Based Approach.
Source: Technische Universität München.
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