Patents: Which Sectors Have the Most?

Patents: Which Sectors Have the Most?

farzana haque, 11 May 2023

Here at Beauhurst, we have yet another new data set: patent data! As ever, we’ve been tinkering with the data ourselves to ask questions that we’ve always wanted to know the answer to. 

Similarly to when we added trade data to our platform and used it to find out if exporters fared better, this time, we’re using our patent data to reveal which sectors are utilising patents the most. 

Read on for an overview of patent innovation across the UK. 

Firstly, what are patents? 

Patents are a form of intellectual property (IP). Whilst trademarks protect specific brand words or symbols and copyrights protect original works such as books and music, patents grant legal protection on new inventions or processes. A company can showcase its innovation and protect its invention by obtaining a patent.

Our patent data  

Our patent data set is a comprehensive collection of 211k granted patents for 32.2k companies in the UK, sourced from the reliable European Patent Office and updated twice yearly. Our customers can use patent data as part of their search criteria and they can also see a company’s patents within its profile.

This data has numerous uses—it can be utilised as another growth signal, revealing where companies are spending their time and money, as well as a means of finding innovative companies. Our customers are already using it to find the businesses that are winning (or losing) the race for patent protection, or those that have international ambitions by seeing which countries it has secured patent protection in—long before they begin operating there.  

Which sectors have the most patents? 

For this analysis, we looked at all the active, tracked companies on our platform. 


Looking at the data, we found that the energy sector had the highest percentage of companies with patents at 13%, followed by industrials at 10%. Meanwhile, the retail, transportation operators, media, and built environment and infrastructure sectors all had a low percentage of companies with patents at 2% each or less.

The increasing demand for green energy and cleantech solutions, as well as the adoption of sustainable practices, could explain the data. The UK government’s goal of achieving net zero by 2050 provides further incentives for energy companies to innovate and invest in R&D. As we will see below, 17% of cleantech companies have one or more patents, demonstrating that the energy sector is innovating not only to meet demand but also to stay competitive. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that the industrial sector had the second-highest percentage of companies with patents. Given the complex and technical processes used in sub-sectors such as automotive, aerospace, and defence, investing in new technologies to enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness is a likely driver of patent filings. 

We found the sectors with a low percentage of patent-holding companies are retail, transportation operators, media, and built environment and infrastructure. These industries traditionally require less innovation than the energy and manufacturing sectors, so this is hardly surprising. As the retail sector tends to invest more in marketing than R&D, it’s therefore noteworthy that 2% of companies in the sector hold patents. Clearly, some businesses are protecting inventions.

A closer look 

Digging deeper into sub-sectors, we found that the chips and processors industry had the largest proportion of companies with patents, with a staggering 51%. This is followed by medical tech and pharmaceuticals, with 27% and 22% respectively. Meanwhile, the e-commerce and SaaS sectors have the lowest percentage of companies with patents, at 3% and 4%.

The standout data here is the high percentage of patents in the chips and processors sector where a whopping 31 out of 61 companies have patents. Similarly to the industrial sector, the ever-evolving nature of chips and processors is likely the primary cause of the high percentage of patents in this sector. Given that the semiconductor industry heavily relies on R&D to produce smaller yet more powerful chips, it makes sense that companies in this sector would seek patent protection.

Meanwhile, the low proportion of companies with patents in certain sectors is also intriguing. For example, SaaS companies rely heavily on copyright and trademarks to safeguard their intellectual property, although patents still remain an important method of protection As a result, the patents of such companies offer valuable insight into their operations.

What have we learnt? 

Analysing patent data offers a distinctive perspective on company operations, offering insights into the level of innovation within a sector. We found that irrespective of whether a sector has a high or low percentage of companies with patents, this data offers valuable insights into the workings of sectors, revealing their means of IP protection. 

To learn more about our data set and how you could utilise it, book a demo below. If you have any questions about the data or our methodology, reach out to us

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