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Mapping the development of hydrogen-based technologies (HBTs) through patent analysis

Nicola Martino (Department of Mechanics, Mathematics and Management, Politecnico di Bari, Bari, Italy)
Lorenzo Ardito (Department of Mechanics, Mathematics and Management, Politecnico di Bari, Bari, Italy)
Antonio Messeni Petruzzelli (Department of Mechanics, Mathematics and Management, Politecnico di Bari, Bari, Italy)
Daniele Rotolo (Department of Mechanics, Mathematics and Management, Politecnico di Bari, Bari, Italy) (Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex Business School, Brighton, UK)

EuroMed Journal of Business

ISSN: 1450-2194

Article publication date: 26 February 2024




This paper aims to map the evolution of hydrogen-based technologies (HBTs) by examining the patenting activity associated to these technlogies from 1930 to 2020. In doing so, the study provides a novel perspective on the development of HBTs and offers implications for managers and policymakers.


We collected patent data at the level of patent families (PFs). Our sample includes 317,089 PFs related to hydrogen production and 62,496 PFs to hydrogen storage. We examined PF data to delineate the state of the art and major technical advancements of HBTs.


Our analysis provides evidence of an increasing patenting activity in the area of HBTs, hence suggesting relatively high levels of expectations on the economic potential of these technologies. US and Japan hold the largest proportion of PFs related to HBTs (about 60%), while European applicants hold the highest proportion of highly cited PFs (about 60%). While firms represent the applicant with the highest share of PFs, our analysis reveals that firms holding HBT PFs are primarily from the chemical sector.

Research limitations/implications

While our analysis is limited to examining patent data which capture some aspects of the innovation activity around HBTs (namelly, patented inventions), our study enriches existing literature by performinng a patent analysis on a much larger sample of data when compared to previous studies.

Practical implications

Two main implications emerge from our study. Firstly, there seems to be an urgent need to support the emergence of a dominant design so as to facilitate the consolidation and diffusion of the HBTs, hence the transition to a more sustainable energy production. Secondly, the majority of HBT PFs are held by a small number of countries. This, in turn, suggests opportunities to develop cross-country cooperation (e.g. international agreements, research and technology offices) to support the development and adoption of HBTs globally.

Social implications

Considering the results obtained in this study, from a social point of view, the attention that organizations have paid to hydrogen related technologies is evident. This suggests that the development HBTs can function as a social enabler for a sustianable energy transition.


Extant research has focused on the individual components of the hydrogen chain. As a result, we lack a comprehensive understanding of the progress made in the area of HBTs. To address this gap, this study examined HBTs by focusing on both production and storage technologies since their initial developments, hence adopting an observation period of about 70 years.



Funding: The present work has been funded by the European Union within the 5th Framework Programme under the contract number ENK-CT-2001-00536 (RES2H2) for the project entitled ìCluster Pilot Project for the Integration of Renewable Energy Sources into European Energy Sectors Using Hydrogen (H2).


Martino, N., Ardito, L., Messeni Petruzzelli, A. and Rotolo, D. (2024), "Mapping the development of hydrogen-based technologies (HBTs) through patent analysis", EuroMed Journal of Business, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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