EU leads hydrogen technology, with Germany and France leading the way

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The European Union leads the development of technologies for the use of hydrogen, with 28% of patents registered between 2011-2020, followed by Japan, with 24%, and within the Old Continent the heavyweights are Germany (11%), France (6%) and the Netherlands (3%).

These data are contained in a joint report on hydrogen published on Tuesday by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the European Patent Agency (EPO), which specify that the United States has lost ground in that period and represented 20% of patents.

Well behind are South Korea with 7% and China with 4%, although the authors of the study underline the strong dynamics of these two countries, with an average annual growth between 2011 and 2020 of 12.2% and 15.2%, respectively.

The European Union was clearly at the forefront in hydrogen production technologies (28% of the total, compared to 20% in Japan and 19% in the United States) and also in storage, distribution and processing (33%, compared to 23% in the United States and 22% in Japan).

However, Japan ranked first in final applications, with 28% of the total, followed by the European Union (27%) and the United States (19%).

Innovation in hydrogen technologies has been dominated by the European chemical industry, but the IEA and EPO note that the new heavyweights in patent filings are automotive and chemical companies focusing on electrolysis and fuel cells.

The hydrogen giants are the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota, the South Korean industrial group Hyundai, the also Japanese Honda and Panasonic, France’s Air Liquide, the German Linde and BASF and the American Air Products.

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Those responsible for the study point out that although hydrogen production continues for now “almost entirely” with fossil fuels, patent filing is dominated by alternative low-emission methods, which “anticipates an explosion for electrolysis”, a field in which Europe excels in new capabilities.

To illustrate, they say that in 2020, almost 80% of patents related to hydrogen production related to climate-driven technologies.

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