Hydrogen patents for a clean energy future

Faced with a convergence of crises spanning energy, geopolitics and the environment, the future of the
European economy now depends more than any time in its history on its capacity for innovation and creativity.
The transition away from fossil fuels is a challenge unparalleled in scale and complexity, with a narrowing
time window by which to bring solutions to market. In this context, producing reliable intelligence on trends in
low-carbon innovation is crucial for supporting robust business and policy decisions. This also forms a vital aspect of EPO’s strategic commitment to sustainability.

This study – the third of its kind undertaken in collaboration with the IEA since 2020 – addresses
innovation trends related to hydrogen which is a core element to energy transitions in the EU and beyond.
Combining the energy expertise of the IEA with the EPO’s patent knowledge, it provides the most comprehensive
and up-to-date global review of patenting trends in a broad range of technologies – from the production of
hydrogen to its storage, distribution and transformation, through to its end-use applications across many different
industries. Because patent information is the earliest possible signal of industrial innovation, this report
offers a unique source of intelligence on a complex and fast-moving technology landscape that is reaching new
heights of strategic importance to decision-makers around the world.

Patent protection is key for innovators to transform hydrogen research into market-ready inventions. Patents
enable enterprises and universities to reap the rewards of their creativity and hard work. As the patent office
for Europe, the EPO provides high-quality patents to protect innovations in up to 44 countries (including all
EU member states). European patents are not only for large multinational companies. They are also key
to helping small businesses raise funding, establish collaborations and eventually scale.

The study is designed as a guide for policymakers and decision-makers to assess their comparative advantage
at different stages of the value chain, shed light on innovative companies and institutions that may be able
to contribute to long-term sustainable growth, and direct resources towards promising technologies. Drawing on
the EPO’s cutting-edge patent data, it introduces new search strategies to compare incremental innovation
related to established fossil fuel processes with emerging technologies motivated by the climate challenge.

The results reveal encouraging transition patterns across countries and industry sectors, including a major contribution of Europe to the emergence of new hydrogen technologies. Importantly, they highlight the contribution of start-ups to hydrogen innovation, and their strong reliance on patents to bring new technology to market.

However, this report also flags some blind spots where more innovation is needed to unlock new applications of green hydrogen. By giving decision- makers an unparalleled perspective of patenting trends along hydrogen value chains, these findings can act as a valuable guide in steering the transition to a new hydrogen economy

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