The fall in the number of UK patents noted in the Thomson Reuters State of Innovation 2015 report is cited as a failure to commercialise research, but the number of patents filed is meaningless without knowing what percentage are granted, or noting how many registered patents make it to market. The statistics are also skewed by the dominant position of the Chinese in numbers of patents filed but as pointed out recently by The Economist, those numbers are driven more by government targets than any “connection with the state of innovation in the country”.
As PraxisUnico's Fundamentals of Technology Transfer course notes, it is easy to file a patent, but it is not always strategic - there are multiple routes to extracting value and impact from intellectual property. The value of all Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) activities - whether through collaborative research, commercialisation, or Continuing Professional Development - should not be underestimated. While 6,619 patents may have been filed in the UK last year, in the same period KEC staff in university technology transfer offices handled over 150,000 transactions (excluding those of non-monetary value) in the areas of Consultancy, Contract Research and IP related transactions alone.
As cited in the HEBCI survey, UK universities generated a 48% increase in patent applications between 2003/4 – 2012/13, and UK university patents now make up almost 1 in 5 of patents filed in the UK. Universities in the UK contributed £3.4 billion to the economy in 2011-12 through services to business, including commercialisation of new knowledge, delivery of professional training and consultancy. This is a 5% increase on the previous year, and demonstrates that patents filing figures should not be looked at in isolation from other factors.