What's hot? Life sciences challenge tech in global innovation

Tue May 26, 2015 12:00am EDT
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* Semiconductor patents down as drugs, food, cosmetics rise

* Global patent volume up 3 percent in 2014 -Thomson Reuters

* Innovation report reveals blurring of industry boundaries

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON, May 26 (Reuters) - The life sciences industry is increasingly taking over from the tech sector in driving global innovation, according to a Thomson Reuters analysis of global patents.

With more patents applied for or granted in 2014 than in any other year in history, humankind has never been more inventive, whether in designing driverless cars, discovering new drugs for cancer or building bionic limbs.

But growth in innovation has nonetheless slowed, with worldwide patent volume up 3 percent last year, the smallest annual rise since the end of the global recession in 2009. Previous years have seen near double-digit percentage increases.

While part of that may be due to tighter patenting rules in the United States, there are also signs of more fundamental shifts, with the volume of published scientific literature -- a precursor to patents -- down 22 percent across 12 industries.

Significantly, patents for semiconductors fell 5 percent in 2014. That may spell trouble for other areas, since microchips form a bedrock for innovations such as wearable tech, big data and the so-called Internet-of-things, which allows wireless communication between appliances.   Continued...