Activity in Europe is dominated by Germany and France. Patent output with inventors from Italy shows a significant upturn, while activity in the United Kingdom and Switzerland remains static. It appears from the data that the United States lagged behind Japan in the mid-1980s but has caught up since. Again, activity in Taiwan and Korea has emerged over the last 10 years, but overall numbers remain low for both countries. Compared with other subfields, research in composites is occurring in only a small number of countries, with emerging actors such as China and India having displayed no significant U.S. patenting activity.
Although there are significant differences in the indicators for the five subfields chosen for this analysis, some general trends emerge:
In each subfield the United States is the world leader or among the world leaders.
Japan and Western Europe are the closest rivals for leadership. Japan appears to have surpassed the United States in alloys and appears ready to surpass the United States in ceramics.
Global activity in all the subfields examined is diversifying, with significant increases in activity in Asian countries that so far have not had substantial activity in these fields.
Notwithstanding the global diversification of research activity, the number of patents associated with inventors from the emerging centers remains low.