China has emerged as an increasingly important player in the fourth industrial revolution, having patented technologies at a rate that is growing at double the global average, a European Patent Office report released on Thursday said.
From a very low starting point in the late 2000s, China's innovative activity has increased very quickly, registering an annual average growth between 2010 and 2018 of 39.3 percent, which is twice the global average of 19.7 percent.
China overtook South Korea in 2017 and, after generating more than 6,300 international patent families in 2018, now stands almost on par with Europe and Japan.
The United States defended its position as the world leader in fourth industrial revolution technology with 11,927 international patent families in 2018. China stands in 4th position.
"Our study shows that Chinese innovation in the field of fourth industrial revolution technologies has increased greatly. China has displayed, by far, the fastest growth of all major innovation centers around the world. Its universities, businesses, and regional hubs are becoming increasingly important players in the global 4IR innovation landscape," said Antonio Campinos, president of the European Patent Office.
The study reveals that China's innovation in the field of the fourth industrial revolution is specialized in connectivity and software, areas in which companies such as technology giants Huawei and ZTE have become world leaders.
The report shows Huawei, which was outside the top 10 between 2000 and 2009, moved up to fifth place between 2010 and 2018. ZTE is the second Chinese company to be listed in the 20 leading companies in the field, ranked 13th.
Both Shenzhen and Beijing are among the world's most important clusters for fourth industrial revolution patents, with Shenzhen accounting for 3.1 percent of all global patents in the field, ranking it fifth, and Beijing accounting for 2.3 percent between 2010 and 2018.
With a growth rate of more than 30 percent annually since 2010, Beijing is now the fastest-growing innovation cluster in the top 20.
The study is entitled Patents and the Fourth Industrial Revolution－the global technology trends enabling the data-driven economy.
The report looks at all international patent families from 2000 to 2018, and shows that innovation in fourth industrial revolution technologies has accelerated significantly worldwide.
Global patent filings for the technologies, which involve smart, connected objects and span the internet of things, big data, 5G, and artificial intelligence, grew at an average annual rate of almost 20 percent, nearly five times faster than the average for all technology fields, between 2010 and 2018.
"Constellations of smart, connected devices, faster wireless internet, big data, and AI are transforming the global economy and having a profound impact across many sectors, from manufacturing to healthcare to transport," Campinos said.