Green Energy Mill, High Tech Campus Eindhoven, 2021. © Bart van Overbeeke
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More than 750,000 inventions for clean and sustainable technologies were published between 1997 and 2021, accounting for nearly 12% of inventions in this period. That’s according to the latest EPO-EIB report titled “Financing and commercialization of cleantech innovation.” Between 2016 and 2021, the number of inventions in clean technologies grew by 33%. By 2021 alone, there were nearly 55,000 registered inventions.

The report also includes a comprehensive overview of the leading innovators in cleantech, showing their activities in clean and sustainable technologies and the support these parties need to bring their inventions to market.

EPO President António Campinos: “The report is a welcome positive sound in these times of record temperatures and increasingly urgent sustainable development goals. Strong growth in clean and sustainable technologies is the key to a better future. But while it is encouraging to see EU inventors leading the way on green technology patents, at the same time it is vital that global intellectual property cooperation continues to deepen.”

EIB President Nadia Calviño says Europe is at the forefront of cleantech innovation. “A well-functioning internal market in the European Union is an important driver in further scaling this up. The EIB Group is committed to supporting Europe’s competitiveness by investing in net-zero technologies and resource efficiency. By providing venture capital and strategic financing to cleantech innovators, we promote developing and implementing advanced technologies that will contribute to greener and fairer growth and a sustainable future.”

Innovation Race

Between 2017 and 2021, EU member states provided 27% of high-value cleantech inventions as measured by the number of international patent families (IPFs). Germany, France, and the United Kingdom are the top regional contributors. Globally, Japan, the United States, and China remain key players, where China’s cleantech sector, in particular, has shown strong growth in recent years.

More than 70% of the companies that patent clean and sustainable technologies in the EU have fewer than 5,000 employees. While 29% of these companies currently prioritize their national market, 61% see the EU as the most important future market. Micro and small cleantech innovators consider access to finance the most important barrier to their activities.

Low carbon

Clean and sustainable technologies cover a wide range of solutions to improve energy efficiency, use renewable resources, reduce waste and pollution, and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. Low-carbon energy technologies are at the top. Clean mobility solutions are in second place, closely followed by plastics alternatives, which also see many patent applications. Technologies for clean manufacturing, construction, ICT, and climate adaptation also show a substantial increase in patent activity, with diverse growth trajectories across sectors.


Last fall, the EPO launched the Deep Tech Finder, a tool that combines the company profiles of about 9,000 investment-ready European start-ups with information from their patent portfolios. The Deep Tech Finder has more than a dozen filters for the various sustainable technologies linked to about 300 such previously mentioned, making it easier for investors to find promising start-ups and vice versa.