In recent years, research into artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed multiple fields including visual perception and speech recognition. The International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that worldwide spending on AI systems totaled $19.1 billion in 2018. American companies and institutions spent three quarters of that money, making the United States a leader in AI. The IDC further expects a 44 percent increase in 2019, for a total of $35.8 billion spent on AI systems, with 40 percent continued annual growth through 2022.
According to a recent World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) publication, companies represent the majority of the top AI patent applicants with American-based technology giants IBM and Microsoft topping the worldwide list.
Universities and public research organizations are also critical to AI development. Such organizations provide valuable analyses of this technology while training the next generation of AI researchers. Despite this, American universities and public research organizations lag far behind their Chinese peers in applying for patents and publishing research related to AI.
With over 2,500 applications, the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) is the top university AI patent applicant worldwide and the 17th largest patent applicant across the board. Of the top 20 academic patent holders, 17 are in China, with the remaining 3 in Korea. Of the top 500 university and public research organization patent applicants worldwide, more than 100 are Chinese institutions. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Korea, the next two largest AI patent applicants, only account for about 20 applications each. Furthermore, Chinese universities and research organizations have seen a 20 to 60 percent annual growth in their patenting activity, equaling or outpacing the growth rates of organizations from other countries.
While less disparity exists regarding scientific publications related to AI, China still leads the pack. 10 of the 20 top organizations producing AI-related scientific publications are in China. The top organization, CAS, has produced about 23,000 AI-related publications. Meanwhile, the U.S. is home to six of the top 20 publishing organizations, including the University of California system which has produced the third-largest number of AI-related publications at approximately 14,000.
It is clear Chinese universities and public research institutions currently dominate their worldwide peers in applying for patents and producing scientific publications related to AI. This focus on research into AI indicates how important China considers this emerging technology. Only time will tell if this strategy will pay off and help make China the world leader in AI.