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World Patent Information 34 (2012) 271e278

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World Patent Information


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Spillover benets from controlled nuclear fusion technology e A patent analysis


Peter Bruns a, Minh Quang Tran b, Daniel Kunz a, Heinz Mueller a, *, Christian Soltmann a
a
b

Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual Property, Stauffacherstrasse 65/59g, CH-3003 Bern, Switzerland
Centre de Recherches en Physique des Plasmas, Ecole Polytechnique Fdrale de Lausanne, Association Euratom-Confdration Suisse, Station 13, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

a b s t r a c t
Keywords:
Nuclear fusion
Spillovers
Spinoffs
Patent statistics

The patenting activity in the eld of controlled nuclear fusion was investigated to assess the role of this
emerging technology as a catalyst for inventions in other technological areas. Patent statistical data
allows to track not only the evolution of a technology, but also to analyze cross-fertilizing effects of
a technology that is not quite ready for implementation. Spillovers from nuclear fusion research for
applicable inventions to other technological areas can be identied.
2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
The search for alternatives to existing energy technologies such
as nuclear power, hydroelectric power and the combustion of fossil
fuels has become more and more important in the light of volatile
fossil fuel prices and supply, accelerated exploitation of natural
resources, and ecological concerns.
A shear endless energy source is the sun, sending its energy in
form of radiation to our planet. This energy is produced in the sun
by nuclear fusion reactions. Thus, for many decades, nuclear fusion
has been believed to make a signicant contribution to meet the
energy needs of tomorrow [1e5]. However, despite the impressive
scientic and engineering progress, important technical obstacles
still need to be overcome [6]. Some of the challenges to create
a sun on earth, to name a few, are to understand and control the
hot dense plasma, to keep temperature to a few hundred million
degrees for getting the fusion reaction going and to produce an
energy gain by overcompensating the energy needed to maintain
and control nuclear fusion.
The way to such a benign and almost inexhaustible energy
source is a prime example for the cumbersome development of
a complex technology, which requires signicant expenses in
research and development over a long period. Unsurprisingly,
decision makers are interested in assessing the economic benets
of such complex technology in its early stage. This information
helps to take educated decisions for the technologys further
development and to better justify to the public the substantial
nancial investment in research and development.
Evaluation of indirect economic and industrial effects of other
long-term public research and technology programs has shown
that industry is able to benet from public R&D activities under
* Corresponding author. Tel.: 41 (0)31 377 73 68; fax: 41 (0)31 377 79 32.
E-mail address: heinz.mueller@ipi.ch (H. Mueller).
0172-2190/$ e see front matter 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wpi.2012.06.001

these programs. Spinoffs and spillovers of knowledge and technology can generally be found in all stages of the long-term
programs. Some authors are in fact very optimistic regarding the
existence and the importance of spinoffs from for example space
research, another complex technology.
Investigating and better understanding spinoff effects is
important and attractive for economics and management specialists alike. Approaches to measure the benet of spinoffs and spillovers are manifold and are usually based on economics models [7].
However, a prerequisite for applying and testing these models is
the identication of existing spillovers from the complex technology under investigation.
A more recent economic approach to identify technology spillovers used the North American Industry Classication (NAICS) codes
in a specic advanced technology program [8]. The conclusion of the
authors was that future work should focus on matching commercialization and patent outcome data to the NAICS coding. Such an
approach has been applied to identify knowledge spillovers in
general in Europe, but this work shows the knowledge ow between
countries and regions rather than between technology areas [9].
In the past, spinoffs and spillovers were identied in different
technological areas such as space technologies [10e12], high energy
physics [13] as well as in fusion technology [14e17]. Plasma and
other technologies developed in part by nuclear fusion research are
nowadays used in a wide variety of commercial applications [18].
Nevertheless, spillover effects are difcult to identify and account for
[19]. The disadvantage of these previous approaches is that spinoffs
and spillovers were only identied if they were obviously related to
the complex technology while technologies not directly linked were
left undetected and unconsidered.
A more comprehensive way of identifying spillover technologies
is the analysis of patent literature. However, such an approach will
only help to identify the technologies per se that stem from

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P. Bruns et al. / World Patent Information 34 (2012) 271e278

complex, large and mostly governmentally funded technology


programs and does not take into account the social and economic
returns. Nevertheless, since patent data is well structured, organized and indexed, including extensive and detailed classication
of technological areas, the patent-based approach may be a good
basis for further analysis: Patent analysis at large allows accurate
illustration of the activities of applied research, is an excellent tool
to monitor such activities and to depict trends in the highly
complex and interdisciplinary eld of nuclear fusion technology.
Statistical and text mining analysis of published patent documents
in the concerned technology eld can help to identify spillovers.
Applying such an approach facilitates the identication of technologies previously unknown to stem from the eld of nuclear
fusion. An earlier approach using patent data to identify spillovers
was applied in the past to the eld of biotechnology, in particular
recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology [20]. This work attempted to
assess the efcacy of various measures of knowledge diffusion,
comparing patent citations, publications citations, and licensing
data. Patent data was used by identifying the three core rDNA
patents issued by the USPTO and analyzing the patent documents
that cite one of these three documents. This approach therefore
depended on the identication of a few basic patents in a welldened technology area. By the same token, the work relied on
the availability and reliability of all these data in a very specic case.
In this paper, we use a broader approach and show that by
analyzing larger sets of patent data, spillovers and spinoffs from
nuclear fusion research can indeed be identied, i.e. a technology
that has not as yet been shown to be directly applicable to
commercialization. In general, such an approach can be used for
further evaluation of the economic impact of long range research in
complex technology areas.
2. Methods
The term spillover can be dened as any positive externality
that results from purposeful investment in technological innovation and development [21]. For this paper, spillover describes
economic or social payoffs from a technology that is not yet ready
by itself to generate a return on investment, i.e. mostly basic
research such as nuclear fusion research. Furthermore, spillovers
can manifest in various, very often intangible forms, and for that
reason are extremely difcult to measure in monetary values [15].
Approaches to identify the economic impact of spillovers have
already been applied to, for example, high energy physics [22].
Spillover effects are often very signicant for large consortia
projects based on governmental funding. In this study, spillover
technologies are identied through forward citation analysis as
technologies not directly belonging to the patent classes of nuclear
fusion (intersectorial spillovers), but being related to this eld.
Intrasectorial spillovers, i.e. spillovers within the technological
core area of the conducted research, might also be important for
the full understanding of the economic impact of research
programs. However, such spillovers are not identied with the
methodology used in this paper.
The term spinoff describes, as often dened in the literature, an
independent company created from an existing part of another
company or a governmental unit, such as a university, by transferring the know-how of a specic technology or invention from
the original entity to the new company. In this work, spillovers and
spinoffs are not distinguished.
Patent data does not take into account the process that leads to
a technology advance, i.e. whether it is a spillover or a spinoff, but
can serve as a basis for the identication of technology benets
stemming from large basic research programs. The methodology
used to identify such spillovers and spinoffs is described below.

Table 1
International patent classication codes and European classication codes for the
identication of patent documents relating to nuclear fusion.a
Code

Description

G21B1/00 (2006.01)
H05H1/02 (2006.01)

Thermonuclear fusion reactors


Generating plasma; handling plasma

US patent classication code used to identify patent documents relating to


nuclear fusion
376/100
Nuclear fusion
Documents having the following European classication code were excluded
from the searches based on patent classication codes
G21B3/00 (2006.01)
Low-temperature nuclear fusion reactors,
e.g. alleged cold fusion reactors
a

Subcodes of the indicated codes were also used.

2.1. The data set


The basic set of patent documents for the study was compiled
using combinations of patent classication codes, keywords, the
technical content of documents and bibliographic data of the
European Patent Ofce database EPODOC. The patent classication
codes used to identify patent documents relating to nuclear fusion
are given in Table 1. The keywords used were: tokamak, stellerator,
nuclear fusion, fusor (an apparatus that is used to create fusion),
thermonuclear fusion, inertial fusion or fusion reaction and inertial
connement. The keywords were used with different truncations
to include different spellings and the plural forms for searches in
abstract and full-text data bases. Besides English, queries were also
carried out in German and French. The searches were restricted to
documents published earlier than April 2010. The searches were
performed using either a combination of keywords and patent
classication codes given in Table 1 or by using keywords alone.
Some obvious keywords such as laser fusion were used in a rst
attempt but had to be omitted because searches with these
keywords resulted in the retrieval of too many non-relevant
documents, e.g. by retrieving mostly documents related to welding of plastics. Documents classied as belonging to the eld of cold
fusion were excluded from the data set used for further analysis
(Table 1). Since nuclear fusion occurs in many documents related
to biological cell fusion, the patent classication codes described in
Table 2 were also excluded when using keywords for the searches.
The statistical analysis of all applicants of retrieved documents
revealed companies inactive in nuclear fusion technologies, e.g.
companies only active in the pharmaceutical or imaging areas.
Patents from these applicants were subtracted from the basic set of
patent documents to further improve the percentage of relevant
documents in the retrieved data set.
The technical content of the retrieved documents was checked by
randomly selecting, reading and evaluating documents individually
to ensure that they belong to the eld of controlled nuclear fusion.
Table 3 summarizes the quality of the data searches. Clearly, using
Table 2
IPC and European classication codes relating to biological cell fusion excluded from
keyword searches for patent documents relating to nuclear fusion.a
Code

Description

A01K (2006.01)

Animal husbandry; care of birds, shes, insects;


shing; rearing or breeding animals, not otherwise
provided for; new breeds of animals

C12N (2006.01)

Micro-organisms or enzymes; compositions thereof;


propagating, preserving, or maintaining
micro-organisms; mutation or genetic engineering;
culture media

Subcodes of the indicated codes were also excluded.

P. Bruns et al. / World Patent Information 34 (2012) 271e278

273

Table 3
Evaluation of documents retrieved using randomized samples with a sample size of 100.

Documents retrieved using patent classication only


Documents retrieved using patent classication or keywords
Documents with oldest priority date before 1991 retrieved
using patent classication or keywords
Documents with oldest priority date of 1991 and newer
retrieved using patent classication or keywords

% of Documents related
to nuclear fusion

% of Retrieved non-fusion
documents

Number of documents
evaluated

95
72.5
76

5
27.5
24

100
400
99

57

43

patent classes alone searches result in a very distinct identication of


documents belonging to the nuclear fusion eld. More than 11,000
documents were found using patent classication codes alone. An
additional approximately 7500 documents were identied by
keywords, amounting to a total of approximately 18,500 documents.
95 per cent of the documents retrieved by patent classication codes
alone were indeed related to nuclear fusion whereas the rate of
relevant documents was only 72.5 per cent when combining
keyword searches and patent class searches. However, even though
patent classication codes yielded a very high search precision,
relying on patent classication codes alone would have left unconsidered many documents about nuclear fusion-related technologies.
Nevertheless, including the documents found by keyword searches
into the set of documents found by patent class searches increased
the percentage of non-fusion-related documents from 5% to 27.5%.
Therefore, most of the following statistics were performed on the
complete set of the approximately 18,500 documents.
2.2. Statistical analysis
Statistical analyses of the basic set of patent documents were
performed to map the chronological development of patenting
activity in the eld of nuclear fusion and to provide the basis for
a comparison between patenting activity and expenditure in
research and development in the eld. In addition, patent landscape maps were created to identify emerging new technology
sectors, and a forward citation analysis was performed to reveal
spillover from the nuclear fusion domain into other technical elds
and its diversication.
The patent documents were grouped according to the priority
country/region. The country or region where the rst patent
application relating to an invention was led may be considered

99

indicative of the place where the invention occurred. The share of


priority documents relating to a specic country or region may
accordingly be considered indicative of a countrys/regions innovation activity in a technical eld and may help to identify which
countries or regions are most active in developing new solutions for
the nuclear fusion eld.
Combining patent class searches with keyword searches resulted in a higher percentage of retrieved documents not directly
belonging to the eld of nuclear fusion technologies than using
keywords alone (Table 3). Combining these two types of searches
resulted in a 65% increase of the total number of retrieved documents (not shown) indicating that using of patent classes alone will
not cover the whole technological eld. However, the rate of
documents not belonging to the nuclear fusion eld also increased
from 5% to 27.5%. Interestingly, the set of documents with priority
dates before 1991 shows a signicant lower percentage of documents not belonging to the nuclear fusion eld than the set of
documents having priority dates after 1991. This might indicate
that the research in nuclear fusion technologies during the past 20
years diversied into other elds and thus these documents might
represent at least in part the technology spillovers. On the other
hand, the observed effect could also be caused by the emergence of
plasma coating applications and similar techniques not related to
fusion research. To overcome this problem, the documents identied at the end of the statistical analysis to describe possible spillover technologies might have to be evaluated one by one.
The number of patent publications over time is strongly considered to be an indication of applied research activities. Figure 1 (sum
of PCT, Europe, Japan, SU/RU and USA) shows the number of patent
documents relating to nuclear fusion versus priority year of the
publications. Patenting activity in controlled fusion technology
increases steeply between 1970 and 1985 and much more

Fig. 1. Number of patent documents relating to nuclear fusion per oldest priority year. A distinction was made between patent documents having the patent classication codes
G21B, H05H1/02 or 376/100 (core technologies), excluding those documents having the European patent classication code G21B3 (low-temperature nuclear fusion reactors, e.g.
alleged cold fusion reactors), and patent documents which could be retrieved by keywords only. For comparison, the evolution of published patent document in all technology
elds in the respective period was added (right axis).

274

P. Bruns et al. / World Patent Information 34 (2012) 271e278

Fig. 2. Number of patent documents per oldest priority year: the number of patent documents claiming priority at WIPO (WO), in Europe (AT, BE, CH, DD, DE, DK, EP, ES, FI, FR, GB,
GR, IT, LU, NL, NO, SE), Japan (JP), Soviet Union/Russia (SU/RU) and the United States (US) were determined and plotted, reecting signicant changes in patenting activity over time.

pronounced than the patenting activity of all technology elds


combined (black curve, Fig. 1). After 1990, the patenting activity
somewhat leveled off without any further signicant increase. This
gure likely reects the historic developments in the eld of nuclear
fusion. First patent publications were found dating from the beginning of the 20th century but for more than 50 years no signicant
contribution to the concept of nuclear fusion technology was seen.
Research in nuclear fusion began in the early 1940s for military
purposes as a side project of the Manhattan Project, but without
signicant progress until 1952. Civilian research in controlled
nuclear fusion started in the 1950s, and continues to this day. A rst

increase in patent documents is observed between 1955 and 1960


that might be associated with research on the hydrogen bomb. The
patenting activity in controlled fusion technology increased steeply
over the next 15 years. The second peak in patenting activity
between the 1980s to the early 1990s might be related to the Japanese tokamaks JT60 and JT60-U.
In Fig. 2, the patenting activities in Europe, Japan, the Soviet
Union/Russia and the United States are distinguished. The countries
of the patent assignees are plotted versus oldest priority year of the
patent documents. Clearly, Japanese assignees led the highest
number of patent applications, especially between 1978 and 1990.

Table 4
Patent applicants active in the eld of nuclear fusion (key players).
Patent applicant
Hitachi
Tokyo Shibaura/Toshiba
Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute
Mitsubishi
US Energy
Commissariat Energie Atomique
Atomic Energy Commission
University of California
Kawasaki
Siemens
Euratom
KMS Fusion
Kobe Steel
Ishikawajima Harima Heavy Ind.
Westinghouse Electric
Sumitomo Electric Industries
Atomic Energy Authority
Texas Gas Transmission
Matsushita Electric Ind.
Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe
Nippon Steel
Max Planck Gesellschaft
General Electric
Agency Ind. Science Techn
Impulse Devices
Apricot
US Army
Fujikura
BBC
NGK Insulators
Centre National De La Recherche Scientique

1950e1970
3
6
2
2
82
169
0
60
14

11
83

4
10
2

1971e1980

1981e1990

1991e2000

From 2001

Total

430
227
112
130
160
19
39

803
884
296
417
153
73

321
342
292
171
10
47

79
65
61
39
2
74

17
61
15
30
5
36
43
42
49
2

44
43
10
30

80
10
6

26
40
3
38

37
17
1
2

25
6
24
7
6
25
24

17

33

28
5

31
3

12
9

1636
1524
761
759
327
295
208
141
122
117
111
106
104
100
95
92
86
82
69
66
64
62
58
58
57
50
47
47
47
45
45

8
26
37
101
5
38
3
1
82
5
8
7
19
8

15

11
10
11

22
52
29
37
12
23
50
8
27
21
2
31

11
7
11

P. Bruns et al. / World Patent Information 34 (2012) 271e278


Table 5
Denition of technological sectors covered by patent documents which relate to
nuclear fusion but were not assigned the patent classication codes G21B, H05H1/02
or 376/100 (including subsides). Four main technological sectors were
distinguished:
Technological
sector

IPC codes

Materials science
Particle physics
Plasma & laser
physics
Superconductivity

C04B35, C22C38, C22F1, C01B31, C30B29, C03C3, C22C27


H01J25, B01D59, G01T1, G21K1, H01J23, C01B4
H01S3, H05H1, B23K26, H01P1
H01B12, H01L39, H01B13, H01F6, H01F7, H01F5, H01F1

There is about equal patenting activity in Europe and the United


States and much less activity in the Soviet Union/Russia.
Furthermore, the set of patent documents was analyzed to
identify the main players in the nuclear fusion eld. Hitachi seems
to have been the most active company in the eld of nuclear
fusion research and development with over 1600 patent documents followed by Tokyo Shibaura (Toshiba), with more than
1500, the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute with about 800,
Mitsubishi with about 750, and as the rst non-Japanese
assignees, the United States Department of Energy with about
330 and the Commissariat dEnergie Atomique (France) with about
300 patent documents (Table 4). Thus, Table 4 also underlines the
ndings from Fig. 1.

3. Results and discussion


One crucial nding of our analysis is that the most important
elds outside fusion technology are materials science (assigned to
14 per cent of the retrieved documents), superconductive or hyper
conductive conductors (13 per cent), plasma and laser physics (7

275

per cent) and particle physics (6 per cent) (Table 5). The rst two
technologies are important in the construction of large fusion
devices and hence new innovations necessary for nuclear fusion
devices might be of commercial interest reected in patenting
activity. Plasma and laser physics, an important area for nuclear
fusion, is not necessarily associated with nuclear fusion although
important in nuclear fusion technology and might also per se be
commercially interesting and thus be protected by patents. Particle
physics are also likely to be applied in other areas than nuclear
fusion, e.g. breeding of tritium, or the handling of radioactive waste,
and thus be commercially interesting besides for nuclear fusion
technology. Other elds of technology of special concern to fusion
research are plasma coating and semiconductor production.
As can be seen in Fig. 1, documents retrieved by nuclear fusionrelated keywords only are generally covered by nuclear fusion
specic patent classication codes up to about 1975. From then on,
technologies which are related to fusion technologies but not
assigned to nuclear fusion specic patent classication codes and
are only retrieved by keywords play a more and more prominent
role in the overall count of patent documents relating to nuclear
fusion. This observation may partly be an indication for fusion
technology spillovers into other technological sectors and may
demonstrate that this spillover effect has increased in number and
in importance during the last decades. On the other hand, technologies identied by keywords only and not by nuclear fusion
patent classes may also indicate a diversication of inventions in
the nuclear fusion eld that are not necessarily classied under
nuclear fusion. Such a diversication might have become necessary
for example with the scaling up of experimental fusion reactors.
Patent landscaping maps were used to visualize the patent
activity in different fusion technology areas and to identify
emerging new technology sectors (Fig. 3). Patent landscaping uses
data and text mining to analyze large numbers of patent documents

Fig. 3. Patent landscape map of patent documents relating to nuclear fusion, in the period 1980e2009. The patent documents were subjected to data and text mining in order reveal
main technical concepts of the underlying inventions. Patent documents relating to core technologies (red data points) and documents identied by keywords only (blue data
points) are distinguished. Important technical concepts are highlighted: beam sources and energy supply (red area), controlling magnetic elds and the plasma (orange area),
superconductivity in magnets (blue area).

276

P. Bruns et al. / World Patent Information 34 (2012) 271e278

and to group patent documents relating to the same or similar


technologies. Figure 3 shows the patent landscape map of all
retrieved patent documents (patent classication codes and
keywords) from 1980 to 2009. The red dots indicate patent documents classied by nuclear fusion specic patent classication
codes according to Table 1 whereas the blue dots represent the
patent documents not classied by these codes, are therefore not as
closely related to nuclear fusion as the documents represented by
the red dots and can be retrieved by keywords only.
Several distinct technological sectors can be identied by
analyzing patent landscaping maps. A large area with documents
covering plasma and magnetic elds and areas describing beam
sources and energy supply can be distinguished. All these areas are
predominantly covered with red dots representing patent documents closely related to nuclear fusion. Other areas, mostly covered
with blue dots, seem to belong rather to spillover technologies than
directly to nuclear fusion, e.g. superconducting and material
sciences. These identied documents or document clusters can be
analyzed in regard to spillover effects.
The citation of patent documents in subsequent patent applications or in patent prosecution procedures is widely considered to
provide useful information about the dissemination of technologies. Forward citation activities may also be an indicator of technology and knowledge transfer from one technology eld covered
by the cited patent documents into other technology elds
addressed by the citing patent applications.
The analysis of forward citations in this study is based on the
generality concept [23]. This concept assumes that if one patent
document is cited by other patent documents in a variety of other
technical elds, it can be assumed that it has initiated or at least
inuenced innovations outside its own technical eld.
The analysis of forward citations was performed in this study
using the subclasses of the International Patent Classication

system. The reason for using patent classication data on the


subclass level rather than on the more detailed subgroup level lies
within the fact that analyzing the data on the subgroup level may
produces statistical artefacts.
The forward citation analysis was performed by grouping the
IPC codes of the citing patent documents according to the oldest
priority year of the cited document. For each oldest priority year,
the percentage of citing patent documents having a specic IPC
code was then determined. This corresponds to a normalization of
the data and allows to compare the IPC code distribution for
different oldest priority years. The resulting normalized distribution was plotted and shown in Fig. 4. This gure illustrates the
diversication of the nuclear fusion domain during the last decades
and the spillover into other technical elds.
As an example, the data point for the percentage of forward
citations having the IPC subclass G06K (Recognition of data;
presentation of data; record carriers; handling record carriers) and
citing patent documents from 1949 is highlighted (see red circle in
Fig. 4). The data point represents 10e100 per cent (red color in the
web version) of all forward citations regarding patent documents
from 1949 (the actual value is 33 per cent). In other words, one
third of all forward citations which refer to patent documents
relating to nuclear fusion and stemming from 1949 belongs to the
technological sector characterized by the IPC subclass G06K.
The distribution illustrates that documents relating to nuclear
fusion are not only cited by other nuclear fusion-related patent
documents but by a signicantly broader set of documents. While
the majority of forward citations has the IPC codes relating to
nuclear fusion, that is the core technologies or closely related
technologies (Table 5), other non-nuclear fusion IPC subclasses play
also a prominent role. For example, many citing patent documents
have the IPC code B23K which relates to inventions in the eld of
soldering/welding. Soldering and welding aspects play an

Fig. 4. Forward citations of patent documents relating to nuclear fusion, per oldest priority year of the cited patent documents and per IPC code on the subclass level of the citing
documents (see text for a more detailed description). The IPC domain G08B-H05K which comprises various IPC codes relating to nuclear fusion is enlarged.

P. Bruns et al. / World Patent Information 34 (2012) 271e278

important role in the development of reactor walls which are


capable of withstanding the harsh working conditions.
A second example for spillover effects identied by the forward
citation analysis are documented in patent documents having the
IPC code F04B covering pumps. Advanced pumping technology is
a prerequisite for fusion reactors. Due to the necessity for a high
vacuum and its upkeeping in fusion reactors, the nuclear fusion
eld has come up with high-performance solutions for vacuum
pumps. The technologies behind these solutions have meanwhile
found their way to other applications. For example, the modular
getter pump disclosed in US4137012A, which can be placed in the
outer vacuum shell of a torus-type nuclear fusion reactor, was
referred to in the subsequent patent document WO9837325A1,
addressing getter pumps with a specic supporting framework to
be used in vacuum systems.
The presented analysis of forward citations aimed to illustrate
spillover effects of nuclear fusion and the diversication of the
technical eld whereas a thorough quantitative statistical analysis
of forward citations, e.g. based on the generality measure, was
beyond the scope of this study. However, in light of the extensive
data basis for patent documents in the nuclear fusion eld, the
authors consider the quantitative analysis a promising and valuable
approach to further assess the economic side effects of research in
nuclear fusion.
4. Conclusions
Results of the patent analyses suggest that spillover and spinoff
effects are real for nuclear fusion research. The data demonstrates
that patents belonging to non-nuclear fusion technologies but are
linked to nuclear fusion can be found in patent analysis approaches
such as forward citation analysis. In fact, the diversity of possible
application of technologies stemming from nuclear fusion research
is somewhat surprising.
Our study does not take into account the economic impact of
spillovers and spinoffs in the eld of nuclear fusion. These effects
have to be analyzed separately and in detail using the patents and
technologies identied by our approach. Nevertheless, our
approach can enable economists and decision makers to assess
spillover effects of complex technology areas and systematically
rather than anecdotally investigate their impact on economic
advance and social developments.

277

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Peter Bruns is currently head of patent experts in engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual
Property which he joined in 2002. Prior to the work in IP,
he was for ten years at universities and research institutions in Germany, the U.S. and The Netherlands performing
basic research in geochemical studies of marine sediments
and investigated past environmental changes. He holds
a master and a doctorate degree in geology from the
Universities of Heidelberg and Kiel.

Acknowledgments
We would like to acknowledge Hansueli Stamm for critically
reading the manuscript and Markus Sigrist for helpful discussions
and inputs. We also acknowledge the help of Stefanie Schneiter
with the preparation of the gures and the Swiss Federal Institute
of Intellectual Property for supporting this work.
References
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[8] Nail J, Brown H. Identifying technology ows and spillovers through NAISC
coding of ATP project participants In: NISTIR 7280, Gaithersburg; 2006.

Minh Quang Tran Educated at the EPF Lausanne (EPFL)


and having received his PhD in plasma physics, he spent
his post doc years at the Plasma Physics Laboratory of the
UCLA. He then returned to Centre de Recherches en
Physique des Plasmas (CRPP) of the EPFL to work as
a principal investigator in many different elds, such as
basic plasma physics, development of high power millimeter waves sources, electron cyclotron heating of fusion
devices. He became Full Professor of Plasma Physics at the
EPFL in 1997 and Director of the CRPP in 1999. He was also
in charge of the implementation of the European EFDA activities as EFDA Leader from
2003 to 2006. In parallel with his activities at the CRPP, he also serves as chair or
member of many international panels.

Daniel Kunz is a patent expert in the eld of mechanical


engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual
Property. Before he started working at the Institute in
2005, he held positions for ten years in pressure, force and
torque metrology. Amongst others he was head of the
pressure laboratory at the Federal Ofce of Metrology
(METAS) for several years. Since 2006, he has been
responsible for patent statistical analysis at the Institute.
He has a university of applied science degree in mechanical engineering.

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P. Bruns et al. / World Patent Information 34 (2012) 271e278

Heinz Mueller Educated at the ETH Zurich and having


received his PhD in biochemistry, he worked for several
years at different research institutions in San Diego and
Chicago. He then returned to Switzerland to work as
a principal investigator in cancer research at the University
of Basel where he obtained the title of a professor. Several
years ago he joined the patent department of the Swiss
Federal Institute of Intellectual Property while remaining
a regular lecturer in biochemistry at the University of
Basel. He also teaches intellectual property at different
Swiss universities and writes articles for several publications on this topic.

Christian Soltmann has worked for several years as


a materials scientist in the eld of pure and applied
research. In addition to a PhD in materials science, he
holds a MAS in Intellectual Property. He is a patent
expert at the Swiss Federal Institute of Intellectual
Property and specializes in patent statistics and data
mining.