IRG 2: Drivers of Nanotechnology Commercialization in China: Patent Analysis

(Parker, Appelbaum, Motoyama, Lenoir, Herron, Ridge)


We have acquired a dataset of Chinese nanotech patent data from Donghua ZHU, Vice Dean, School of Management and Economics, and Director, Laboratory of Knowledge Discovery and Data Analysis at Beijing Institute of Technology (his lab is the lead agency in China analyzing such data). Our purpose is to better understand the prospects for commercialization in China, and possibly to identify particular firms or researchers for follow-up interviews. The data-set of Chinese nanotechnology patents based on a random sample, and would additionally includes the abstracts of all nanotech patents issued in China for the period 1985-2008. In addition to the raw data, we were provided with a 74 page “Analysis Report of Nanotechnology Chinese Patents,” as well as the complete patents (in Chinese) in four areas: thin films, quantum dots, carbon nanotubes, and nanoporous filtration.


The team has subsequently conducted its own analysis of this data. One key finding is that while the number of nanotechnology patent applications in China has grown markedly in recent years, most patents come from the country’s research institutions such as major universities and the Chinese Academy of Science, and not the private sector. Many patents also “sleep in the safe,” most likely taken out primarily to justify funding or discourage foreign patenting. Furthermore, as many as two-thirds of all Chinese patents are design model or utility model patents, which are far more readily conferred by SIPO than invention patents, further discouraging foreign competitive patenting.


We are continuing to analyze Chinese patent data, now in cooperation with the larger patent and publication database analysis under development with our partners at Duke University (see next section).