Hydrogen patents shift towards clean technologies: the EPO-IEA report on innovation in electrolysis

Innovation News

According to a new report from the European Patent Office and the International Energy Agency, innovation in hydrogen technologies has shifted towards low-emission solutions with Europe and Japan leading the way. The report analysed global patent data to provide a comprehensive analysis of innovation in hydrogen technologies. The study covers the full range of technologies, from hydrogen supply to storage, distribution and transformation, as well as end-use applications. The report finds that global patenting in hydrogen is led by the EU and Japan, who account for 28% and 24% respectively of all IPFs filed in this period. Hydrogen production technologies accounted for the largest number of hydrogen patents overall in the 2011-2020 period, and the report finds that across all segments of the hydrogen value chain, low-emission innovations generated more than twice the number of international patents than established technologies. 

While hydrogen production is currently almost entirely fossil-based, the patenting data shows a massive shift towards alternative, low-emissions methods such as electrolysis. Technologies motivated by climate concerns accounted for nearly 80% of all hydrogen-production related patents in 2020, with growth driven chiefly by a sharp increase of innovation in electrolysis. 

The automotive sector continues to be the main area of focus for innovators, with the same momentum not yet visible in other end-use applications, despite policy and media attention on hydrogen’s potential to decarbonise long-distance transport, aviation, power generation and heating. The study also revealed that start-ups holding patents attracted more than half of the USD10 billion in venture capital investment into hydrogen-related firms in the last decade.