When the average number of links to DOE per patent family is considered—a better measure of the depth of the influence—First Solar leads. First Solar has an average of over five links per solar patent family to earlier patents in the DOE set, followed closely by BP Solar, SunPower, and Schott, in that order. These findings suggest that much of U.S. companies’ PV technologies are closely linked to DOE-funded research. Next, Figure 7-3 shows the extent to which the leading companies worldwide in solar energy patenting have built on the knowledge base. It shows that 9 of the 10 leading companies in solar energy patenting have at least 20% of these linked to earlier DOE-attributed PV patent families. Six have more than 30%. ECD has more than 40% of its patent families linked to the earlier DOE set. Two companies, ECD and BP Solar, have sufficient patents and production of PV to put them on the lists in both Figures 7-2 and 7- 3. Figure 7-3 suggests that DOE-funded PV research has influenced the development of solar energy technologies and companies more broadly than indicated by Figure 7-1.
Retrospective Benefit-Cost Evaluation of DOE Investment in Photovoltaic Energy Systems 7-4 Figure 7-3. Leading Companies in Solar Energy Patenting by the Percentage of their Solar Energy Patent Families Linked to Earlier DOE-Attributed PV Patents Note that some companies may not be major PV manufacturers, yet they have built formidable solar energy patent portfolios over time. Canon, for example, does not appear to be presently active in solar energy, but its solar energy patent portfolio covers a range of technologies including solar energy cells, modules, and roofing panels. Comparing the influence of DOE-attributed PV research with the influence of research carried out by each of the leading companies (not shown) also found DOE to be ranked at the top, tied with two companies, ECD and BP Solar. Each had more than 500 of the total 1,812 solar patent families of the leading companies linked back to their earlier solar energy patents. But it should be noted, as shown in Figure 7-3, that the patent families of ECD and BP Solar are linked to earlier DOE-attributed PV patent families. Thus, in comparison with other organizations, DOE was found to be prominent in that it has formed part of the foundation for subsequent R&D outcomes by leading companies, despite having a small fraction of the total solar energy patent portfolio. 7.3 Strong Linkage from DOE-Attributed PV Patent Families to Developments in Semiconductor Technology beyond PV Devices The forward patent tracing element of the study (explained in Appendix E) identified organizations from all industry sectors that had the largest number of their patent families linked to the earlier DOE-attributed PV families (Figure 7-4). This figure is dominated by companies with strong links to the semiconductor industry, notably Micron, Semiconductor Energy Lab, Applied Materials, and IBM, indicating that DOE- funded PV research has had an influence on subsequent developments in semiconductor technology beyond PV devices.
- Spring '18
- Professor Obura Oluoch
- Photovoltaics, Solar cell