Editorial

UK is doing well on Blockchain patents – but struggling with AI, new study warns

The UK filed just 2 patents from a total of 649 AI patents last year – less than 1%

Posted 22 January 2019 by

The UK is fourth in the world for number of Blockchain patents filed, but is falling behind for AI patents – which may mean the UK Government ought to consider better ways to help Artificial Intelligence development.

Specifically, 11% of all global patents for Blockchain technology were filed by British businesses last year at 34 patents from a total of 305 filed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in 2017 – with no other EU country making it into the Top 10 countries for number of patents related to distributed ledger.

However, when it comes to patenting AI breakthroughs, we’re doing a lot worse as a nation – filing just 2 patents from a total of 608 Artificial Intelligence patents WIPO last year, or less than 1%.

The data – and suggestion for more HMG help – comes from out of a piece of research carried out by UK-based accountancy and business advisor UHY Hacker Young.

Andrew Snowdon, one of its partners, warns that, “If the UK is to maintain its strong position as a hub for new technology, the Government needs to ensure more businesses patent their Intellectual Property.

“Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence could unlock significant economic growth, and the UK is one of the world’s leaders for developing newer technologies.”

The study does point out that the UK has historically been at the forefront of research in the fields of both Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, being home to companies such as Google’s DeepMind, Improbable, and 5AI, and so continues to be a key leader in the development of these new technologies.

However, adds Snowdon, “The UK is beginning to lead behind its rival in developing and patenting some of these new technologies” – and with Brexit fast approaching, Westminster may need to take steps to ensure the UK remains an attractive place for tech businesses.

This could include initiatives such as targeted tax credits designed to encourage increased research and development in this area, suggested the company.

Chinese businesses have managed to file 32% of all global patents for Blockchain, with that country’s central bank openly supporting the development of Blockchain-based trade finance platforms, which helps its SMEs access finance, says the firm.

US businesses are not so far behind China at 29%, followed by Australian businesses at 13% – but China is definitely in pole position when it comes to AI leadership, it seems, filing 473 out of the 649 Artificial Intelligence patents – 31% – in 2017.

Clive Gawthorpe, partner at UHY Hacker Young’s Manchester office, adds that, “The businesses that are positioned best in the long term are those that benefit from private enterprise and government both investing to bring Artificial Intelligence technology to mass markets.”