Thanks to the United States, North America is the most innovative region in many cutting-edge technologies. While Canada can certainly not rival its bigger neighbor in the number of world-class patents, it performs very well in specific fields – particularly when its tally is adjusted for its size.

What it’s all about

Our analysis looks at the top ten percent of patents in 58 cutting-edge technologies, clustering into ten different fields. We identify the best patents in those cutting-edge technologies by considering the market coverage and citation by official examiners of the active patent portfolio. Taking such an approach gives us a more realistic picture of the patent situation around the world – and a better indication of the innovation potential of major regions. In this post, we take a closer look at how North America is performing.

The US – A class of its own

As a world class patent power, the United States clearly stands out. In 50 of the 58 technologies we examined, the United States holds the highest number of world class patents; in the remaining eight it takes second place. In five of the ten fields, namely health, industry, digitization, infrastructure and security, the United States holds the most world class patents in every single technology. Its lead is particularly commanding in health, digitization and security where it often holds more than 40 or sometimes even over 50 percent of the share of world class patents.

chart drug discovery

The China factor

Given such a great performance across the board, it is hard to speak of a weakness. Statistically, the field of environment comes closest, since the U.S. only holds the most world class patents in two of the five technologies examined. In the other three, China has taken the lead. As it has stunning growth numbers, China could soon rival the United States in more technologies for the top spot. It closely trails the U.S. in functional food, blockchain and construction and – if current trends continue – is likely to overtake it in these technologies within the next three years.

Oh, Canada!

Even if the United States clearly is responsible for the lion’s share of North America’s innovation power, it would be wrong to overlook its northern neighbor. Even though its population only accounts for about over half of the population of France (or about 60 percent of its GDP), Canada meets on an equal footing in innovation with its former colonial power. Above all, it stands out in the field of digitization where it ranks among the top 5 world class patent powers in four of the six technologies: quantum computing, cloud computing, big data and blockchain.

chart quantum computing

North American Digital Economy

Given that both the United States and Canada stand out in digitization, in turn, is a key factor for innovation in many other technologies. North America is poised to remain a very competitive region in the years to come. In fact, the digital realm should offer the United States and Canada a great field for research cooperation and economic exchange. Therefore, it is only logical that the newly negotiated free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. (USMCA or New NAFTA) entails comprehensive provisions to facilitate digital trade.