As the recent World IP Day (April 26) puts the spotlight on sustainability, IP specialist Marks & Clerk says the energy sector is where we are seeing some of the world’s most exciting and ambitious green innovations.

The day is an annual celebration recognising the role IP rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity, and this year’s theme from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) is “Innovate For a Green Future”.

In his World IP Day message, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry highlighted the growing global demand for energy, which is predicted to rise by 30 per cent by 2040. And he emphasised the importance of fostering innovation, and supporting the development or robust IP systems to incentivise and support it, in order to develop the clean energy systems required to meet that demand.

Senior associate Giles Pinnington is a Chartered UK and European Patent and Trade Mark Attorney with Marks & Clerk and welcomed the spotlight being put on green innovation.

He said: “It is so important to recognise the role intellectual property systems play in supporting a green future. The innovation we are seeing in the green energy sector is particularly exciting with some truly cutting edge projects underway that could shape the future of energy production in ways we could never have imagined just a few decades ago.

“It’s not just green energy companies where we’re seeing great strides, but in the oil and gas sector we’re also seeing some fantastic innovation as it adapts for the future.”

Below Giles highlights some interesting green energy projects underway today:

·         Artificial photosynthesis: It may sound like science fiction but scientist Heinz Frei is taking the lead from Mother Nature by carrying out work on artificial photosynthesis – the chemical reaction that allows plants to turn carbon dioxide into cellular fuel.  He is essentially rebuilding the leaf in the form of solar fuel tiles in exciting work that could pave the way for generating renewable energy from CO2.

·         Hydrogen direct reduction steel:  The production of steel is an incredibly energy intensive process and coal is typically used. The steel industry is responsible for around 7% of global CO2 emissions. But moves are being made to decarbonise this industry and Svenskt Stal (Swedish Steel) – which is part owned by the Finnish government – announced at the beginning of this year that it was set to use fossil-free, renewable hydrogen for thermal heat. It’s a move that will play a notable role in cutting carbon emissions in both Sweden and Finland, and would go some way to meet Sweden’s aim of carbon neutrality by 2045.

·         Nanocatalysts: Using the process of hydrogenation of CO2 to create hydrocarbons is very expensive for two reasons – hydrogenation requires an extremely high temperature, plus the catalysts needed can be expensive to produce. But the creation of a new catalyst could be an exciting turning point thanks to researchers at the University of Southern California and the National Renewable Energy Lab.  The compound they have created could potentially be used to convert carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons, and the process involves much lower temperatures than used to form existing catalysts.

Reinforcing the scale of innovation in the energy sector, the latest data form the European Patent Office released in March showed a 13% rise in patent applications from the UK, while global EPO applications in the energy category rose 5.5%.