Research and innovation in artificial intelligence in the medical sector has declined in the last year.

The most recent figures show that the number of AI related patent applications in the industry stood at 104 in the three months ending January – down from 255 over the same period in 2020.

Figures for patent grants related to AI followed a similar pattern to filings – shrinking from 69 in the three months ending January 2020 to 16 in the same period in 2021.

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 being 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 AI innovator in the medical sector in the latest quarter. The company, which has its headquarters in the United States, filed 48 AI related patents in the three months ending January. That was up from 42 over the same period in 2020.

It was followed by the Switzerland based F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd with 42 AI patent applications, the United States based Illumina Inc (19 applications), and the United States based Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc (12 applications).

Johnson & Johnson has recently ramped up R&D in AI. It saw growth of 12.5% in related patent applications in the three months ending January compared to the same period in 2020 - the highest percentage growth out of all companies tracked with more than 10 quarterly patents in the medical sector.