Channelling innovation in greentech: UK IPO report spotlights industry leaders

Amidst the ongoing climate crisis and growing global push for sustainability, the UK government has released a ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution, bolstering efforts to meet the UK’s net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pledge by 2050. 

The plan highlights ten key areas of focus for climate tech progress in the UK. Amongst these are offshore wind advancements, nuclear power expansion, and electric vehicle (EV) adoption - see our recent article on the global state of play for the EV industry here.

Alongside this roadmap, the UK IPO recently published a green technology report drawing attention to the UK IPO’s “Green Channel” and the increasing importance of innovation in meeting sustainability targets. The report emphasises the vital role patenting will play in the green industrial revolution.

Already a busy sector, green technologies have enjoyed 400% growth in UK patent filings between 2000 and 2020. The UK has positioned itself as a world leader in wind, nuclear, EV, and carbon capture technology, and ranks first in the world for offshore wind and green building patents. 

That said, the IPO report outlines that innovation will need to accelerate if UK industry is to keep pace with domestic sustainability projections and competing green-transitioning markets abroad. It has been estimated that around half of the carbon reductions needed for the UK to hit its 2050 target will be the result of technologies that haven’t been invented yet.

Significant innovation is needed in steel production, for example, which remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Similar needs must be met in the production of sustainable biomass, if it is to serve as both a fuel source and a feedstock for green manufacturing, and refrigerant-free coolants for their continued widespread industrial and domestic use.

In certain fields, innovation increasingly finds itself held back by lagging progress elsewhere. Lithium batteries, for example, are critical upstream supply chain components in the manufacturing of EVs and, despite a rapid boom and massive investment in battery and EV tech, innovation in lithium battery recycling and retirement has not kept up. 

Therefore, patent protection in the greentech sectors is likely to become increasingly important, both to innovators vying for commercial position and to the government in spurring UK industry to stay on course with sustainability projections. 


The Green Channel, introduced by the IPO in 2009, is a fast-track scheme for eligible UK patent applications. The channel allows for accelerated processing of a patent application if it provides an environmental benefit. 

The Green Channel significantly cuts prosecution timelines for applications. The average time from acceleration request to grant is 15 months, much shorter than both the internal IPO target and the UK compliance period (4 years and 4.5 years from the priority date, respectively). The expediting effect is most pronounced where entry to the channel is requested early in prosecution, and preferably before the first exam report is issued.

Acceptance into the Green Channel also appears to be something of a positive omen for patentability; almost half of applications accepted into the channel ultimately grant, which compares favourably with the UK average 29% since the channel’s inception.

There is no concrete definition as to what, in the IPO’s view, constitutes an “environmental benefit”. Clean energy production methods have been clearly established as eligible, but are by no means the only class of invention which can benefit. For example, the IPO routinely accepts channel requests for applications which purport to reduce resource utilisation or improve energy efficiency, meaning that a lot of the newer synthetic biology technologies could be eligible. 

Unsurprisingly, the degree of detail required to establish an environmental benefit seems to be technology dependent. A request regarding an application for a solar panel, for example, is subject to a lesser evidentiary burden than a request for a more sustainable manufacturing process.

The IPO will not conduct any substantive investigation into statements made in a Green Channel request, but will refuse requests which are, on their face, spurious (regarding applications to a perpetual motion machine, for example) or which clearly fail to provide the necessary environmental benefits.

The IPO publishes a database of all the applications fast-tracked in the Green Channel here. Recent channel entries include carbon sequestration apparatus, macroalgae cultivation, and an imaging system for wind turbine blade inspection.


The applicant simply needs to make a written request to the IPO specifying the procedures to be sped up (i.e., search, examination, and/or publication), alongside reasoning as to how their invention provides an environmental benefit. 

The request can be filed at the time of, or any time after, filing the patent application, and is free of charge. Notably, there is no automatic entry system to the Green Channel, meaning that a request must be made to the channel, even in cases where it seems self-evident that the invention provides an environmental benefit. 

In summary, the Green Channel is a free and accessible tool for sustainability innovators looking to obtain enforceable rights as soon as possible in the UK.

Use of the channel is a string in the bow of applicants looking for attain fast, cost-effective UK protection, as well as early guidance to inform prosecution in family member cases around the world. 

Accelerating grant also allows early access to the UK’s Patent Box scheme, affording tax relief to revenue generated by patented products and methods. UK legislators will be hoping that increased uptake and awareness of the Green Channel, supplemented by parallel initiatives, schemes, and grants, fuels the UK industry’s drive towards net zero by 2050.