European inventions

What are the most influential inventions from Europe?

The airbag, stethoscope and bicycle are all inventions we use daily and rely on. They were all invented in Europe. It’s fair to say Europe’s inventions are pretty influential. Some inventions are claimed by several countries, while some aren’t claimed at all. We did research to find out each European country’s most influential innovation and which countries are patenting their inventions the most.

The UK has contributed many inventions on the list, but one of the most influential ones is penicillin, invented 91 years ago by the Scot Alexander Fleming. It has since saved millions of lives across the globe.

We have compiled our list of the most influential inventions from around Europe below. From the Armenian-inspired colour TV, to Velcro from Switzerland, check out our interactive map below and test your memory with our fiendishly difficult quiz.

Country Invention Name of inventor Year on invention
Armenia Colour television Hovannes Adamian 1928
Austria Snow Globes Erwin Perzy 1900
Austria PEZ Eduard Haas 1927
Austria Psychoanalysis Siegmund Freud 1856-1939
Belarus MINSK computers Byelorussian SSR 1959
Belgium Saxophone Antoine-Joseph "Adolphe" Sax 1846
Belgium BMI Lambert Adolphe Quetelet 1832
Belgium Bakelite (Plastic) Leo Henricus Baekeland 1909
Bulgaria Air bag Assen Jordanoff 1957
Croatia Finger print recognition Ivan Vučetić 1891
Cyprus Halloumi
Czech Republic Sugar cubes Jakub Kryštof Rad 1843
Czech Republic Contact lenses Otto Wichterle 1961
Denmark Lego 1958
Denmark Dry cell batteries Frederik Louis Wilhelm Hellesen 1887
Estonia Skype Jaan Tallinn, Ahti Heinla and Priit Kasesalu 2003
Finland Reflector Arvi Lehti 1973
France Stethoscope René Laennec 1816
Germany Printing press Johann Gutenberg 1439
Greece Olympic games Pierre de Coubertin 776 BC
Hungary Rubik's cube Ernő Rubik 1974
Ireland The submarine John Philip Holland 1878
Italy Jacuzzi Candido Jacuzzi 1949
Italy Radio Guglielmo Marconi 1901
Latvia Aeromotowagon Valerian Abakovsky 1917
Lithuania The office breathalyser Vilnius Gediminas Technical University 2016
Luxembourg Science fiction magazines Hugo Gernsback 1926
Malta The Spiteri Water Pump Joe Spiteri
Netherlands The Fahrenheit scale Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit Early 1700s
Norway Cheese slicer Thor Bjørklund 1925
Poland Pleograph Kazimierz Prószyński 1894
Portugal Lobotomy Antonio Egas Moniz 1935
Romania Fountain pen Petrache Poenaru 1827
Russia Radio receiver Alexander Stepanovich Popov 1896
Serbia Strawberry tree Milos Milisavljevic 2011
Slovakia The first helicopter Ján Bahýľ 1895
Slovenia Talking Tom-app Samo Login 2010
Spain Mop Manuel Jalón Corominas 1956
Sweden Dynamite Alfred Nobel 1867
Sweden Lap and diagonal belt Bröderna Ottosson 1956
Switzerland Velcro George de Mestral
Switzerland Swiss Army Knife Karl Elsener 1886
Switzerland Aluminium foil Heinrich Alfred Gautschi 1905
Turkey DNA repair Aziz Sancar
Ukraine X ray Ivan Puluj 1881
United Kingdom Penicillin Alexander Fleming 1928
United Kingdom Matches John Walker 1826
United Kingdom The Spinning Frame Richard Arkwright and John Kay 1769
United Kingdom Bicycle Harry John Lawson 1885
United Kingdom Automatic Kettle Russel Hobbs 1955
United Kingdom Steam engine
United Kingdom Steam engine

How do patents work?

Patents are used to make sure an invention can’t be made, used or sold by anyone without the inventor’s consent. To qualify for a patent the inventor must show that the product is new to the market and can be used for completing a task. This must be shown to the patent office. If an inventor wants to have a patent, that person has to apply to the patent office in the country the patent would be active in or the European Patent Office, which caters to several countries.

In 2018, 3,326,300 patent applications were filed to patent offices worldwide, which is more than ever before. The Chinese patent office was getting the most work, as almost half (46.36%) of all patents were filed there – 1,542,002 applications. Out of the top 20 countries with the most patent applications, 10 offices were located in Asia, 5 in Europe, 2 each from North and South America and 1 office in Australia.

Only 1,422,800 patent applications were granted around the world in 2018, meaning just 42.77% of applications were approved.

European patents

The European Patent Office gets the most applications of all offices in Europe and it received 174,397 applications (5.24% of all applications) during 2018. Germany is the country that applies for the most patents and it applied for 67,898 in 2018, equal to 2.04% of all applications worldwide. Third is the United Kingdom, with 20,941 applications, followed by France, which applied 16,222 times. Italy was the final country in the top 20, with 9,821 applications.

Top 5 countries with most patent applications

1. China: 1,542,002
2. United States: 597,141
3. Japan: 313,567
4. Korea: 209,992
5. European Patent Office: 174,397
(12. United Kingdom: 20,941)

Top 5 countries with most trademark applications

1. China: 7,365,522
2. United States: 640,181
3. Japan: 512,156
4. EUIPO: 392,925
5. Iran: 384,338
(13. United Kingdom: 198,125)

Quiz time!

Do you remember where the inventions come from? Test your skills and knowledge here.


  • WIPO

For all media enquiries, please contact

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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