Is the United States falling behind in technological innovation? There is some evidence this is the case, and it’s a worrying trend: the number of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates are down across the nation, and competition from nations such as China, South Korea and others are way up.
There is at least one front on which the U.S. retains dominance and its good news for the future. According to a new study by law firm McDermott Will & Emery, the U.S. still leads the world in nanotechnology patent applications and grants.
Nanotechnology, or nanotech, is the science of manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. By definition, nanotechnology works with materials, devices and other structures with at least one dimension sized from one to 100 nanometres. (A nanometer is one billionth of a meter.) The applications of nanotechnology are nearly endless, and are already ushering in rapid advances in medical technology, aerospace, automotive technology, renewable energy, computing, personal care and even agriculture. It has the potential to create tens of millions of new jobs globally in the coming decades.
According to the study, American inventors accounted for 54 percent of the nanotechnology patent applications and grants reviewed in 2012. In second place was South Korea with 7.8 percent, Japan with 7.1 percent, Germany with 6.2 percent and China with 4.9 percent.
The study also examined the geographic location of the owner of the nanotechnology patents and proposed patents. If an inventor works in the Silicon Valley office of South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co, for instance, the U.S. is home to the invention, but the South Korean employer might own the patent, according to Reuters (News - Alert), which reported on the new study last week.
The study examined published U.S. patent applications, patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, and published international patent applications that had the term "nano" in the claims, title, or abstract. Nanopatent applications were included to best quantify innovation occurring in nanotech, the study's authors said.
Edited by Brooke Neuman