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  1. FDI data
17 August, 2022

FDI in 2021: Corporate trends

Global patent activity recovered in 2021 while the world’s top FDI companies went on a hiring spree according to Investment Monitor’s Global FDI Annual Report 2022.

By Naomi Davies

As part of the Global FDI Annual Report 2022, Investment Monitor used GlobalData’s Patent Analytics and Job Analytics databases to examine corporate trends across 2019, 2020 and 2021. Patent activity has long been used as a benchmark for a country’s technological and economic development – a role that has become increasingly important in the fallout of Covid-19. Job hiring trends also offer insights into the sectors, themes and locations that the world’s top companies are prioritising for investment.

Global patent applications grow by 5.8% in 2021

Following a slight decline (-0.3%) in patent activity between 2019 and 2020, the number of applications published grew by 5.8% in 2021 and exceeded pre-Covid-19 levels. This increase can partly be attributed to the prioritised patent examination pilot programmes introduced in response to the pandemic across different jurisdictions. In addition, the use of video conferencing to facilitate oral proceedings has ensured that Covid-19 has not hindered the application process.  

China – the ninth most popular country for inbound FDI – recorded the highest number of patent applications in 2021. More than 1.7 million patents were published in the country during this time, four times as many as the US, which recorded the second-highest amount (410,297). Japan – which attracted the 13th highest number of FDI projects – ranked third (262,095). Germany placed fifth and was the leading European location with more than 55,000 applications. Overall, Asia-Pacific countries dominated, with five locations making the top 10.

Technology, media and telecoms was by far the leading sector in 2021 with more than 990,000 patent applications. The automotive sector ranked second, despite patent numbers falling by 2.5% in comparison with 2019. Oil and gas was the third most popular industry.

Mining was the largest growth sector in 2021, with patent applications jumping by 15.1% compared with the previous year. It was the 17th most popular sector in nominal terms. Travel and tourism-related patents also surged in 2021, with a 9.2% increase. Transportation, infrastructure and logistics and agriculture and forestry patent applications suffered the biggest losses, falling by a respective 28.7% and 10.9%.

Cloud computing was the top theme of 2021, with climate change and digitalisation taking second and third place, respectively.

South Korean electronics giant Samsung was the top assignee in 2021 with approximately 34,000 patent applications published. Almost 30% of the company’s patents were focused on cloud technologies, with 5G and artificial intelligence also popular themes. The US was the company’s top destination for patent applications. 

Nine of the top 10 assignees in 2021 were headquartered in Asia-Pacific countries, with four based in China, three in Japan and two in South Korea. The only entity located outside of the Asia-Pacific region was US-based Qualcomm. The semiconductor company placed fourth with almost 14,000 patent applications.

US-based e-commerce giant Amazon – the top foreign investor in 2021 – published more than 1,100 patent applications in 2021. Just over half of these patents were located in the US. China was the company’s top international destination for patent applications followed by Japan. The UK was the top European location, ahead of Germany.

Amazon set to continue hiring spree in 2022

In terms of hiring trends, Amazon listed more than 134,000 job postings in 2021, a 39% increase from 2020. Of these job postings, 64.8% were in the US. India was the company’s top foreign destination with more than 10,500 job postings, a 65% increase from the previous year. The UK was Amazon’s top European job destination with almost 6,000 postings, followed by Germany. 

‘Social’ as a theme – which covers human rights, diversity and inclusion, health and safety, and community impact – saw a 94.2% increase in posted jobs between 2020 and 2021. In addition, Amazon posted quadruple the number of human resource jobs in 2021 compared with the previous year. The company has previously come under fire for its HR issues.

Amazon looks set to continue its upward hiring trend in 2022. In the first half of the year, the company recorded more than 82,000 jobs postings, a 33.6% increase compared with the first half of 2021. Almost two-thirds of these roles were domestic, while 9% were based in India, 4% in the UK and 3% in Canada. 

Many of the world’s top FDI investors posted significantly more job listings in 2021 when compared with 2020. Switzerland-based flexible workplace provider IWG was the second most active FDI investor in 2021 and posted more than double the number of job listings during this period compared with the previous year. The US was the company’s top FDI destination in 2021 as well as its top job target country. Approximately 20% of the jobs IWG posted in 2021 were based in the US.

In addition, US-based hotel giant Marriott International – the third most active FDI investor – posted 58.1% more jobs in 2021 compared with 2020. More than 60% of these roles were in overseas locations. The top automotive investor in 2021 was California-based Tesla, which posted 2.8% more jobs in 2021 than the previous year. Approximately 37% of these roles were outside with China, Germany and the Netherlands the top foreign destinations.

Click to download the full Global FDI Annual Report 2022.

Patent figures are based on the number of patent applications published in 2019–21. Jobs postings are based on full-time positions from public companies, private companies and institutions. Food preparation and serving-related occupations and retail sales workers have been excluded from our search. 

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