In this latest episode of Business Planet, we travel to the Netherlands to see how inventors will benefit from the European Unitary Patent system, which came into effect on June 1. From solar panel projects to agricultural automation, Europe could see more innovation – and fast.
Inventions that push the boundaries of technology and sustainability are essential for building a brighter future. Europe is at the forefront of innovative solutions, and in this episode of Business Planet, we explore two remarkable examples: a floating solar farm and a revolutionary milking robot.
Floating Solar Farms: Maximising Energy Production
The Proteus floating solar array, located near Rotterdam in the Netherlands, is a groundbreaking project that combines floating photovoltaic panels with advanced sun-tracking technology.
Developed by the Portuguese company SolarisFloat, Proteus has the ability to rotate from east to west throughout the day, maximising its exposure to sunlight. This innovative concept addresses the challenge of land scarcity in countries with abundant water resources.
By harnessing floating solar technology, Proteus offers a 40% increase in energy production compared to traditional stationary solar panels.
SolarisFloat recognised the importance of protecting its intellectual property and registered five patents for its groundbreaking innovation. Until recently, securing patent protection in Europe was a complex process, involving separate applications in individual countries or a Europe-wide patent with separate renewal fees. However, the implementation of the Unitary Patent in June 2023 brings a transformative change to the patent landscape.
Unitary Patent: Simplifying Patent Protection
As of 1 June, the new system establishes a single market for patents, providing inventors with a cost-effective and unified system for patent protection. Initially valid in 17 countries, this new patent framework significantly reduces administrative burdens and legal complexities.
António Duarte, General Manager of SolarisFloat, emphasises the benefits of the Unitary Patent, stating that it will enhance logistical efficiency and serve as a catalyst for European inventors. By removing barriers and providing a harmonised patent system, the Unitary Patent promotes a collaborative environment for innovation.
Revolutionising Dairy Farming with Milking Robots
Lely, a Dutch agricultural robotics company, stands as a testament to Europe's pioneering spirit. The Lely astronaut, a milking robot, has transformed dairy farming by allowing cows to decide when they need to be milked.
"The cows are free, the cows are free to go for milk," says Ad van den Berg, a farmer at Farm Nescio. "It’s good for the welfare of the cow and for their health. We have very happy cows and the farmer and the farmer’s wife."
This innovative approach not only benefits farmers by automating milking processes but also improves the well-being and health of the cows. Lely's commitment to innovation is reflected in its extensive patent portfolio, with over 300 inventions protected by more than 1,600 patents.
Martijn Boelens, Chief Technology Officer of Lely, highlights the significance of patents in driving innovation.
"It's really changing farmers' lives," says Boelens. "It’s having a big impact on their social lives, on their ways of working, how they can treat their cows, how cows' lives are even getting better because they make their own choices, they have freedom to move to do whatever they like at the time they like. It’s the whole concept of robotic milking and, of course, technically it’s a very big challenge.
Europe's commitment to fostering innovation is evident through remarkable projects like the floating solar farm and revolutionary milking robots. The introduction of the Unitary Patent signifies a significant milestone in harmonising patent protection across Europe. By streamlining the process and reducing costs, the Unitary Patent encourages inventors to continue pushing boundaries and transforming their ideas into reality.