Comparing nanotechnology landscapes in the US and China: a patent analysis perspective

  • Lanfen Wu
  • Hongyi ZhuEmail author
  • Hsinchun Chen
  • Mihail C. Roco


The United States (US) and the People’s Republic of China (China) have the most patents in nanotechnology in their own depositories and overall in the international depositories. This paper compares nanotechnology landscapes between 2001 and 2017 as reflected in the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA). It presents the evolution of nanotechnology patent development in the US and China, the differences between nanotechnology topics addressed in the USPTO and CNIPA patents, key players in nanotechnology fields in both domestic and foreign markets, and the player collaboration patterns. Bibliographic, content, and social network analyses are used. The longitudinal changes of granted patents and ranked countries, patent families, technology fields, and key players in domestic and overseas markets are outlined. Collaboration networks of assignees and the influential players have been identified based on network parameters. Results show that the US market attracts more international collaborations and has a higher level of knowledge exchange and resource sharing than the Chinese market. Companies play a vital role with regard to US nanotechnology development, resulting in more within-industry collaborations. In contrast, universities and research institutes are the dominant contributors to China’s nanotechnology development, leading to more academia-industry collaborations in China’s market.


Nanotechnology Patent analysis International perspective Development trend Topic evolution Collaboration network Comparative study 



This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. NSF EFMA-1832926, the National Social Science Fund of China under Grant No. 15BGL037, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant No. 71673135. The fourth co-author was supported by the Directorate for Engineering in NSF. The authors thank for making patent database available for research and Qingmin Ji at Herbert Gleiter Institute of Nanoscience at Nanjing University of Science and Technology for her help in validating nanotechnology topics and keywords. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the respective supporting agencies.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Intellectual PropertyNanjing University of Science and TechnologyNanjingChina
  2. 2.Artificial Intelligence Lab, Department of Management Information SystemsThe University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  3. 3.National Science FoundationAlexandriaUSA

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