7.3Strengthening Flanders' technology position with regard to patents

By Thomas Geernaert, Kristien Vercoutere, Annelies Wastyn and Danielle Raspoet (VARIO - Vlaamse Adviesraad voor Innoveren en Ondernemen)


VARIO1, the Flemish Advisory Council for Innovation & Entrepreneurship coined the ambition for Flanders to strive towards the top innovation regions in Europe in its Memorandum 2019-2024 ‘Forging ahead. Aim: Top 5 knowledge regions’2. This ambition was taken up in the Coalition Agreement of the Flemish government 2019-2024. In pursuit of that ambition, VARIO prepared three Advisory Reports in 2020 at the request of the minister-president of the Flemish Government and the minister of Economy and Innovation. In Advisory Report 10 ‘Innovative benchmark countries and regions for Flanders’3 VARIO selected 5 innovative benchmark countries and 17 benchmark regions as inspiration for Flanders. Then in Advisory report 13 ‘A quality set of indicators for science and innovation’4, VARIO composed a set of strategic policy indicators. This set allows to monitor Flanders' performance in the field of science and innovation in an objective and transparent manner, and to map our region's position internationally. In particular 20 key indicators were selected, of which one dealt with patent applications. This was followed by Advisory report 14 ‘Towards the top of knowledge and innovation regions in 2030’5 with a strategy for Flanders to join the top of innovation regions by 2030.

In 2021 VARIO did the first monitoring exercise for its set of 20 key indicators in Advisory report 24 ‘Monitoring of the VARIO key indicators’6 and in the Flemish Indicator Book7. Specifically for the VARIO key indicator 'number of patent applications' Flanders was found to rank average in comparison with a number of EU and non-EU countries, and behind the benchmark countries Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark (see Figure 1). At the request of the minister of Innovation, VARIO worked out a follow-up Advisory Report 30 'Strenghtening Flanders' technology position with regard to patents'8 for refining and supplementing the existing VARIO key indicator 'number of patent applications': What are our strengths/weaknesses within the current indicator? What can we additionally measure for patents, including with respect to economic and societal impact of patents? VARIO also formulates policy recommendations based on the results of this analysis with the aim of further strengthening the Flemish technology position with regard to patents.


Figure 1: International comparison for the number of EPO-patent applications, the number of granted USPTO-patents and the number of PCT-patent applications with an inventor and/or applicant in the corresponding country/region per million inhabitants (2016)

Source: ECOOM, extracted from Advisory report 24 ‘Monitoring of the VARIO key indicators’ (2021).


For the refinement of the current VARIO key indicator on patent applications and for the interpretation of the additional patent indicators, there was a collaboration with ECOOM KU Leuven (Bart Van Looy, Julie Callaert, Marriette Du Plessis) and the Department of EWI (Peter Viaene).

For the policy analysis and the formulation of recommendations on the Flemish innovation policy, VARIO also held several interviews with experts, and organized a workshop with representatives of the universities, strategic research centres and collective centres and the spearhead clusters. Furthermore, VARIO relied on literature review and desk research.