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Space technologies need space for patents

It’s great to see the recent announcement from the UK Space Agency of a £2 million boost for new space technology developments. But this is only one step in the path to developing and exploiting new technologies in space and here on earth. Whether the concept relates to water purification systems or improved communications systems, all of the technologies either directly or indirectly have uses and applications here on terra firma. Reading news on new funding always lifts one's spirits. However, how can the fruits of that funding be harvested?

Back here on planet earth, the patent space is already being filled. At the end of 2021, the European Patent Office (EPO), in collaboration with the European Space Policy Institute (EPSI) and the European Space Agency (ESA), published a report titled Quantum Technologies and Space. This gave an interesting insight into patent filing trends from 2001 till 2020 in quantum technologies - directly linked to space applications. The report finds that patent applications filed in space-related quantum technologies have increased some 400% over the last 5 years. But where is this growth coming from? It is driven mainly by the US and China.

It is clearly the hope that a number of programmes throughout Europe can address this imbalance in quantum communication filings. Let’s hope that the UK government’s funding boost can also do a bit to address that imbalance more widely.

The space race continues, and companies and innovators ought to keep one eye on the developing patent landscape here on earth if they want to become long-term players in the space sector. If your attention is focussed on the skies alone, then before you know it, others may have staked their claim in this new patent land-grab! That aside, spin-out companies can easily miss out on investor funding and valuable Patent Box tax savings if no patent protection is in place. Patent protection always makes sense for any start-up in any sector. That is equally true in the space industry.

British space technology will help pioneer new approaches to energy, communications and resources, thanks to new projects from the UK Space Agency.

Tags

data & connectivity, energy & environment, patents, medical technologies, start-ups & spin-outs, transport
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