In 2021, French companies and research institutes filed 10,537 patent applications for the European market, many of which were in industry. In terms of innovation, France thus still retains its second place in Europe behind Germany, according to the European Patent Office (EPO), and has consolidated its fifth place worldwide, behind the top three of the USA, Japan and China.
France stands out for the strength of its innovation in the transport sector
With 1,009 applications (up 0.4%) in the transport sector, in particular with patents for smart and hybrid vehicles, France is well ahead of the other countries in the Top 10. According to the EPO, of the ten most innovative French companies, five operate in this sector: Safran, Valeo, Thalès, Renault and Michelin.
With a 27.4% increase in patent applications (engines capable of using biofuels, lighter materials, research into hydrogen-powered aircraft, etc.), aircraft equipment manufacturer Safran is ranked 33rd in the world, driven by technologies related to the decarbonization of aircraft.
The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) has moved up two places to 35th in the world. It has established itself as the world leader in green technology patents thanks to two key areas of strength, namely the energies used in energy transition (hydrogen, fuel cells, electrolyzers) and semiconductor electronics, where it ranks fourth worldwide behind the giants Samsung, Intel and TSMC. The automotive supplier Valeo completes this trio of French innovators in the field of transport.
Two French regions in the European Top 3 for innovation
La French Fab is at the forefront of European innovation, with the Île-de-France region accounting for two-thirds of French patent applications and ranking as the second most dynamic region in Europe behind Bavaria (Germany), whereas Occitanie (south-west France) comes in a strong third thanks to patents in the aeronautics industry, with businesses clustered around Toulouse, even without Airbus patents included in the rankings, given that it is headquartered in the Netherlands.
At the global level, the 188,600 patent applications filed worldwide with the EPO set a new record, up 4.5% on the previous year. Europe is losing ground as a result of the sharp rise in the number of patent applications filed in Asia, and now accounts for less than half of all patent applications (44%), while for the first time, the combined total of Japanese/Chinese/South Korean patent applications, driven by the large number of applications from Samsung, LG and Huawei, has exceeded the US total.