EU-funded research stimulates patented inventions according to a new study

A new study published today concluded that more than 40% of the projects funded by the European Research Council (ERC) generated research findings that were subsequently cited in patented inventions. This shows how curiosity-driven frontier research prompts technological advancements, in particular the development of breakthrough products and processes in physical sciences, engineering, health and care, climate, digital technologies and more, for the benefit of citizens and businesses.

The study focused on how and to what extent the discoveries that ERC grantees described in scientific publications inspired new technologies presented in patent applications, which were filed by firms and institutions all over the world. It is based on data from 6,671 ERC-funded projects from all scientific domains, including all projects funded from 2007 until 2016.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Innovation requires ground-breaking ideas from great minds – and there is now even stronger evidence about it. With Horizon Europe we have stepped up investments to frontier research through the European research Council – a world-reference funding organisation. We must continue doing so in the years to come, building Europe’s scientific excellence and delivering concrete results to society and the economy.

ERC-funded projects in life sciences were most likely to exert influence on patents (61% of projects in that domain are cited in patent applications), followed by projects in physical sciences and engineering (46%). Patents with links to ERC-funded research are concentrated in a certain technology fields. Patents in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, computer technology, organic fine chemistry, measurement, and semiconductors together accounted for 68.2% of the total patent citations received.

Furthermore, the analysis demonstrates a positive impact of ERC-funded research on technological fields whose development is crucial for tackling climate change and making the most of the digital transformation.