Research and innovation in artificial intelligence in the medical sector has declined in the last quarter – but remains higher than it was a year ago.

The most recent figures show that the number of AI patent applications in the industry stood at 185 in the three months ending September – up from 172 over the same period last year.

Figures for patent grants related to AI followed a different pattern to filings – growing from 65 in the three months ending September last year to 64 this year.

The figures are compiled by GlobalData, who track patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Using textual analysis, as well as official patent classifications, these patents are grouped into key thematic areas, and linked to key companies across various industries.

AI is one of the key areas tracked by GlobalData. It has been identified as a key disruptive force facing companies in the coming years, and is one of the areas that companies investing resources in now are expected to reap rewards from.

The figures also provide an insight into the largest innovators in the sector.

Johnson & Johnson was the top artificial intelligence innovator in the medical sector in the last quarter. The company, which has its headquarters in the United States, filed 48 AI related patents in the three months ending September. That was up from 27 over the same period last year.

It was followed by the Ireland based Medtronic Plc with 23 AI patent applications, Switzerland based F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd (21 applications), and Japan based Olympus Corp (16 applications).

Olympus Corp has recently ramped up R&D in artificial intelligence. It saw growth of 68.8% in related patent applications in the three months ending September compared to the same period last year - the highest percentage growth out of all companies tracked with more than 10 quarterly patents in the medical sector.