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Global trends in the invention and diffusion of climate change mitigation technologies


Increasing the development and diffusion of climate change mitigation technologies on a global scale is critical to reaching net-zero emissions. We have analysed over a quarter of a million high-value inventions in all major climate change mitigation technologies patented from 1995 to 2017 by inventors located in 170 countries. Our analysis shows an annual growth rate of 10% from 1995 to 2012 in these high-value inventions. Yet, from 2013 to 2017, the growth rate of these inventions fell by around 6% annually, likely driven by declining fossil fuel prices, low carbon prices and increasing technological maturity for some technologies, such as solar photovoltaics. Invention has remained highly concentrated geographically over the past decade, with inventors in Germany, Japan and the United States accounting for more than half of global inventions, and the top ten countries for almost 90%. Except for inventors in China, most middle-income economies have not caught up and remain less specialized in low-carbon technologies than high-income economies.

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Fig. 1: Evolution of global high-value CCMT inventions from 1995 to 2017.
Fig. 2: Average annual growth of CCMTs.
Fig. 3: Influence of oil price on high-value CCMT inventions.
Fig. 4: Yearly high-value inventions across subsectors.
Fig. 5: Top ten countries in CCMT invention.
Fig. 6: CCMT specialization in the periods 2000–2005 and 2013–2017.
Fig. 7: Source and destination of transferred CCMTs from 2013 to 2017.

Data availability

The data (PATSTAT, Autumn 2019)9 used in this research were purchased from the EPO. The contractual agreement restricts public posting of data sets containing information on individual patents. However, the aggregate data can be found on GitHub at Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

The code used in this analysis can be found on GitHub at


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B.P. thanks F. Scheifele for support with trade data, and E. Petkov and C. Knoeri for insights on innovation in the building sector. A.D. acknowledges support from the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, at the London School of Economics, and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) (ref. ES/R009708/1).

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Authors and Affiliations



All authors developed the research idea. S.T. conducted the empirical analysis with support from B.P., B.P. analysed and visualized the data and wrote the manuscript with support from S.T., while M.G. and A.D. edited the final draft.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Benedict Probst.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Energy thanks Kelly Gallagher, Anna Goldstein and Massimiliano Mazzanti for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Figs. 1–9, Tables 1–5 and Note 1.

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Probst, B., Touboul, S., Glachant, M. et al. Global trends in the invention and diffusion of climate change mitigation technologies. Nat Energy 6, 1077–1086 (2021).

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