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QUICK SCAN - a European patent search service

The QUICK SCAN activity is one of the various support measures offered under the Community's specific programme for the dissemination and exploitation of the results of RTD activities (INNOVATION). Under this activity, the technical details and innovative character of proposal...
The QUICK SCAN activity is one of the various support measures offered under the Community's specific programme for the dissemination and exploitation of the results of RTD activities (INNOVATION). Under this activity, the technical details and innovative character of proposals submitted under the "Technology Validation and Technology Transfer" action line of the programme are subjected to a "novelty check" by the search division of the European Patent Office (EPO). This compares the technical developments proposed by the project with the existing "state-of-the-art" in that particular area thus enabling an evaluation of the innovative character of the proposal.

It is estimated that up to ECU 25 billion is wasted each year in the EU in duplicating research and development work already carried out elsewhere. This problem is of particular relevance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which are less likely to have access to the patent information system (a study carried out in 1995 by the EPO showed that over 60% of European SMEs do not have access to the system). In this context, the aim of the QUICK SCAN activity is two-fold:

- To avoid duplication of research and thus promote more efficient utilization of funding resources;
- To raise awareness of the patent information system.

During the months of April and May 1996, 100 project proposals selected for the definition phase under the INNOVATION programme were submitted for assessment. Of these 13% were not suitable for scanning by the EPO for reasons of either form or content. Following the scan, 30% of all projects submitted were classified as being "novel". In 57% of cases, however, the novelty of the project, or parts of it, was questioned.

In at least two cases, the QUICK SCAN search results led to a complete redirection of the project due to the discovery of information on existing research not known to the consortium. In a few other cases, QUICK SCAN provided valuable information on possible competitors, pointed towards interesting prior R&D work or possible end-users of a new technology.

The cost effectiveness of the QUICK SCAN activity has been clearly demonstrated by this first exercise as the costs of the scan itself amounted to only one-tenth of the amount of funding that has been directly saved. The hidden benefits of the exercise for other projects are also evident.

Source: European Commission, DG XIII
DE FR

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