Quantifying the influence of Open Access on innovation and patents

Najko Jahn*, Thomas Klebel, David Pride, Petr Knoth, Tony Ross-Hellauer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Open Access aims at improving the discovery, access and re-use of research not only within the scientific community, but also within broader society, for instance to promote innovation in industry. Yet, the extent to which openly available scientific work impacts technological inventions remains largely unknown.

Methods: We combine publicly available data sources about patents and scholarly publications to explore the extent to which Open Access scientific literature is cited in patents.

Results: Investigating over 22 million patent families indexed in Google Patents between 2010 and 2020, we found that around one third referenced non-patent literature. However, the number of references per patent family can vary considerably across technological sectors and inventor countries. Based on a sample of 215,962 scientific non-patent references published between 2008 and 2020, we determined the Open Access status using Unpaywall, Europe PubMed Central and arXiv. The proportion of Open Access citations grew over the years, with nearly half of cited articles being openly available.

Discussion: In line with research on both technology-science linkage and Open Access, we found considerable country- and subject- specific variations. In particular, patents representing inventions from the US and the UK cited Open Access work disproportionately more often, although it is challenging to link these observations to specific science policies and incentives. We recommend that follow-up research and monitoring exercise take advantage of a growing evidence base associated with patent citations and Open Access evidence.
Original languageEnglish
Article number64
Number of pages18
JournalOpen Research Europe
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2022

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