When it comes to innovation, UK is patently lagging behind


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The Independent Online

UK companies have failed to muster a single entry in the world’s top 100 global innovators based on patent filings, a report out today reveals.

It is the second year running that no British company has managed to break onto the list, published by Thomson Reuters. It stands in stark contrast to France, which contributed more names than any other European nation.

The list is based on the number of patents filed, the number granted, how far-reaching they are and how often they are cited by other companies in their inventions.

The report makes clear that the UK’s pitiful record on R&D spending is a major part of the reason, but also cites the heavy reliance on financial services, which meant Britain was hit by the financial crisis far worse than most of its global competitors.

It says the UK’s failure “is underscored by the low R&D investment as a percentage of GDP in that region. The UK was the lowest of the US, Japan and France in R&D spend through 2010”.

The report adds: “The trend is also reflective of the evolution of the UK economy away from manufacturing and toward a more service-sector orientation, with a heavy reliance on financial businesses.”

The government has sought to target the issue through, for example, the Patent Box legislation earlier this year, which should slash the corporate tax rate on income derived from UK patented technologies.

But it won’t be fully phased in until 2017 and the report says: “Whether or not that step will have a significant impact on overall patent activity in  the UK will take several years to  find out.”

France’s success is put down to “the country’s R&D investment” which, at almost $50bn, (£31bn) is more than $10bn greater than in the UK.

The study says intense competition in the smartphone market has been a major driver for innovation with Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Google all featuring.

Despite its recent troubles. BlackBerry also makes its debut, driven by a 38 per cent surge in patent filings between 2010 and 2011, and 17 percent growth in patent filings between 2011 and 2012.

The US has 45 entries, Asia 32 and Europe 22. China is absent – while it leads the world in patent volume, most are only filed domestically.