• More than 22% of clean and sustainable technologies worldwide are developed in the European Union.
  • Low-carbon energy technologies, clean mobility and alternatives to plastics are the leading fields in cleantech inventions developed in Europe.
  • Although 29% of EU cleantech innovators currently prioritise their national market, 61% view the EU single market as their key future market.
  • Despite growing market appetite for cleantech, there is a significant funding gap between EU and US cleantech innovators.

The latest joint report launched today by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Patent Office (EPO) provides a comprehensive overview of Europe's cleantech innovators, highlighting their work and the support needed in bringing their inventions to market.

Over 70% of innovators patenting clean and sustainable technologies in the European Union have fewer than 5 000 employees. Almost a third of these innovators (mostly small businesses and mid-caps) prioritise their national market but two-thirds see the European Union as the key future market for expanding their commercial efforts.

The report highlights the fact that the European Union is contributing to more than a fifth of all high-value cleantech inventions worldwide, and that Germany and France have been the top regional contributors. Globally, Japan, the United States and China remain significant players, with China rapidly growing its cleantech sector in recent years. Since 1997, more than 12% of inventions worldwide have been for clean and sustainable technologies, with low-carbon energy tech leading the field, followed by significant patent filings from clean mobility and alternatives to plastics, as well as climate change adaptation technologies and clean manufacturing.

“Europe is at the forefront of cleantech innovation, and a fully functioning single market in the European Union is catalyst for scaling this up. The EIB Group is committed to supporting Europe’s competitiveness by investing in net-zero technologies and resource efficiency,” said EIB President Nadia Calviño. “By providing venture capital and strategic financing to cleantech innovators, we can foster the development and adoption of cutting-edge technologies that will allow for greener, fairer growth and a sustainable future.

EPO President António Campinos added: “The report is welcome reading against a backdrop of record-breaking temperatures and increasingly urgent sustainable development goals. A proliferation of clean and sustainable technologies holds the key to securing a better future. While it’s encouraging to see inventors in the EU leading the way in patenting green technologies, it’s vital that the global IP landscape continues to deepen its collaboration. The EU’s legal framework for protecting innovation was strengthened last summer when the EPO was entrusted to administer the new Unitary Patent system, providing cheaper and simpler patent protection in 17 EU Member States as a single right.”

In terms of a legal framework to boost business, EU cleantech innovators cite consistent regulation in the European Union and faster access to funding as their most desired form of policy support. To address this challenge, the EIB Group has launched programmes such as the European Tech Champions Initiative (ETCI) and the Scale-up Initiative. These initiatives provide various financing mechanisms — including loans, guarantees, seed capital, venture capital support and strategic venture debt — aiming to close the financing gap and support firms at different stages of growth.

Read the Financing and commercialisation of clean and sustainable technologies report here.

Background information

About the EIB

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It provides finance and expertise for projects that contribute to EU objectives. The EIB Group works closely with public and private-sector partners to support sustainable investment, job creation, economic growth and innovation across Europe.

About the EPO

With 6 300 staff, the European Patent Office (EPO) is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, The Hague and Vienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening cooperation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 45 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.