UK companies and universities are struggling to keep up in the global innovation race, according to a study from Thomson Reuters. 

The innovation survey, which looks at the number of patents filed around the world, found that the UK was behind just 6,619 of the 2.1 million patents that were filed last year, or just 0.3 percent. 

The number of patents filed by a country is a good way of measuring innovation ©iStock/James Brey
The number of patents filed by a country is a good way of measuring innovation ©iStock/James Brey

In Europe, the UK lags well behind Germany and France, which filed 56,492 and 11,595 respectively. 

Unilever, British American Tobacco and GlaxoSmithKline filed the most patents among UK companies but they were still far less active than firms in other countries. 

The study showed that the UK is slow to capitalise on scientific advances such as the development of graphene at the University of Manchester. Indeed, the vast majority of graphene patents are now being filed by companies and universities in countries like China and the US.

Overall, more patents were filed last year than any other year on record. 

The industries showing the largest growth in patent volume are food, tobacco & beverage fermentation (21 percent); pharmaceuticals (12 percent); cosmetics (8 percent); and biotechnology (7 percent). 

"While the impact is still to be determined, one thing we know with certainty is that innovation is a key driver of economic success and growth," said Basil Moftah, president of Thomson Reuters IP & Science. 

"Although a slowing of the pace of innovation could be a result of other factors, like changes to patent legislation, if the trend continues it will be something corporations and governments will want to pay close attention to." 

Thomson Reuters' full report, The Future Is Open: 2015 State of Innovation, can be viewed here.