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News article16 November 2021

Quantum technology patents in the space sector take off

The European Patent Office's (EPO) series of "Patent Insight Reports" has been raising awareness about the impact of intellectual property while also identifying future and emerging technologies. Their most recent report is part of a larger space-themed collaboration prepared in collaboration with the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) and the European Space Agency (ESA).  The study titled “Quantum technologies and space” reveals patent filing trends from 2001 until 2020 in quantum technologies, which are directly linked to their application in space.

Worldwide, quantum technologies (QT) are used in space technologies for earth observation, navigation and communication. The patent report considers three key quantum technologies that enable these main application areas: quantum key distribution, cold atom clocks and cold atom interferometers. Conclusive findings show that most of the patent filings in these areas are not from the same key players, which shows a high level of specialisation and limited synergies.

According to patent filing statistics, space-related quantum patents have increased by 400% over the last five years, showing that space applications of QT are a fast-growing domain. This growth is particularly driven by non-European countries, with the USA and China currently at the forefront of space-related QT innovation. The introduction of major programmes intended to develop Europe's infrastructure for quantum communication may change this in the future.

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Publication date
16 November 2021