Project Objectives and state of the art


Women are still under-represented in all sectors of research. E.g. the mean value of ISCED 6[1] graduated women in 2001 for the EU-15-States in science, mathematics and computing was 35.7% and in engineering, manufacturing and construction 20.6%, respectively (European Commission 2003). The percentage of female researchers, the annual growth rate of female researchers, the percentage of women on scientific boards and several other important aspects are monitored continuously by the European Commission. Yet the innovative and inventive activities of women working in the mentioned fields are not well analysed.


In order to get a measurable quantity the ESGI project examines the percentage of patent applications to female patent originators within the 25 EU Member States. So far the knowledge base relating to this subject is meagre and the statistics as well as possible influences are far from being monitored. A study of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2001) uses patents for cross-country comparisons of technological output but neglects to investigate the contribution of women separately.


Among the very few existing studies relating to the female participation in patents a study about national patents in Germany by Greif (2005) exists. There is also a study by Naldi and Parenti (2002) comprising six EU Member States, which investigates the female participation in EU patents, based on a dataset published by the European Patent Organization (EPO) 1998. Furthermore a US Study about patent activities from 4227 life scientists shows a significant gender gap in patenting (Ding et al 2006). All studies indicate a mismatch insofar as the percentage of women applying for patents is considerably lower than the percentage of women working in corresponding fields.


In addition there is still a lack of knowledge about the innovative climate in R&D in different EU Member states as it relates to participation by gender. Only few studies have been done on this topic. A German qualitative study with 14 female patentees (Burkhardt 2006) as well as interviews with female inventors in the mentioned US Study (Ding et al 2006) show significant gender gaps. But up to now, no study exists, which links gender in innovation culture to the participation of women in patent applications and in science in technology.

To fill this knowledge gap detailed studies focussing on gender aspects on inventions are needed. In view of the actual efforts of the EU to overcome gender inequality in all fields there is an urgent need to explore the actual situation of women as patent originators and to investigate the reasons of existing inequalities. A lot of questions remain open and need to be answer

  • What is the current state of participation of women as patentees in European countries? Does the number of female scientists and female inventors in a certain technology field match, or is there a gender gap?
  • What aspects of the innovation climate in institutions regarding the gender aspect can be detected
  • Did the participation of female inventors in patent applications change over the years and in different countries?
  • Is it possible to identify a gender impact in invention activities?


This project will substantially contribute to deepening the knowledge base in an area where significant improvements can be made, as it covers relevant aspects of a topic that can be considered under-investigated, namely the gender differences in inventions. The project has the potential to generate information that is highly useful and to provide recommendations for improved decision and policy-making both at EU and national levels. The output of the project will have the potential to influence policy development for women in science.



Burghardt, Dietrich (2006): .Berufliche und gesellschaftliche Rahmenbedingungen von Erfinderinnen. In: Revermann, Christa (Ed.): Forschende Frauen. Statistiken und Analysen. Wissenschaftsstatistik im Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, Essen, 43-49.

Ding, Waverly W./ Murray, Fiona/ Stuart, Toby E. (2006): Gender differences in Patenting in the Academic Life Science. In: American Assoc. for Advancement of Science (Ed.): Science, Vol. 313, Washington DC, 665-667.

European Commission (2003): She Figures 2003 Women and Science. Statistics and Indicators.  Luxembourg.


Greif, Siegfried (2005): Frauen im Erfindungswesen. Eine patentstatistische
Analyse. Berlin. Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftsforschung.

Naldi, Fulvio and Parenti, Ilaria Vannini (2002): Scientific and Technological Performance by Gender. A feasibility study on Patents and Biometric Indicators. European Commission. Luxembourg

OECD (2001): Using patent counts for cross country comparisons of technological output. Brussels.


[1] International Standard Classification of Education, ISCED 6 is equivalent PhD-level

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This project is financed
by the Commission
of the European
within the Sixth
Framework Programme