The medtech sector continues to be a major of source of innovation in Europe and beyond, according to data from the European Patent Office.

The data reveals that there were 13,833 patent applications in the field of medtech in 2019, up from 13,707 in 2018. This represents an increase of 126, or approximately 1%.

Growth in medtech innovation in 2019 has been slower than in 2017 and 2018, when the field was been the largest single category for patent filing at the EPO. 2019 has seen medtech become the second largest source of patents, with digital communications having taken the top spot following a near 20% increase in patent filing at the EPO.

The EPO’s latest annual report shows patent applications to the EPO up 4% on the previous year. Related healthcare fields such as biotechnology and pharmaceuticals have also seen increases in 2019, up around 1.6% and 4.4% respectively.

Medtech innovation in the UK has also increased, and outperformed the global medtech filing growth, with medtech filings up 3.1% on 2018.

Dr Thomas Prock, a partner at intellectual property firm Marks & Clerk, said: “The latest figures from the EPO reveal the scale of innovation in the medtech sector, and the increasingly important role medtech has in delivering better, more intelligent healthcare. The healthcare challenges of the 21st century – whether it’s ageing populations or antimicrobial resistance – need smart solutions, and medtech is key in delivering better diagnostic and sensory technologies which empower people to take charge of their own health.

“It is unsurprising to see digital and computer technologies surge in the latest EPO filing data. AI and digital communications are reshaping the world economy, and every industry will benefit from the innovation they bring.

“What the EPO data fails to capture is that much of this digital and computer technology will be applied to medtech, and other industries. So, the latest figures don’t necessarily represent a slowing in medtech innovation, but rather the increasingly important role of, for example, AI programmes in making medtech smarter and more responsive.

“While the US continues to lead when it comes to medtech filings, we are seeing countries across Europe begin to close this gap. The medtech innovation coming out of the UK and Europe has the potential to lead to ground breaking new treatments and the creation of world beating enterprises. Protecting this innovation with intellectual property will be key as this industry grows, and begins to export its technology to the wider world.”