These are the world’s most innovative companies

People wearing protective face masks are seen inside an Apple store on the first day of New South Wales' further eased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Sydney, Australia, July 1, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott - RC22KH9UFJ75

Apple came top of this year's rankings. Image: REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Johnny Wood
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  • Tech giants dominate the Boston Consulting Group’s list of 50 serial innovators for 2020.
  • Apple takes the top spot this year, with Alphabet second and Amazon third.
  • Only eight companies have featured in all 14 editions of the list.
  • Over time, the world’s most innovative companies have been growing in size.

The best innovators “walk the talk”, use their company’s size to good effect and constantly fine-tune their innovation systems for success.

That’s according to Boston Consulting Group, which has just released The Most Innovative Companies 2020: The Serial Innovation Imperative study, ranking the world’s 50 most innovative companies.

Have you read?

Tech giants dominate the list's upper echelons. Apple has climbed two places from last year’s position to claim top spot, with Google’s parent company Alphabet in second, Amazon in third, followed by Microsoft, then Samsung.

innovation thinkings business companies corporation rankings rank ideas tech technology thought think thinking
The 50 most innovative companies of 2020. Image: BCG

The list of top innovators has featured a total of 162 different companies across its 14 editions to date. This year’s top seed, Apple, is one of only eight companies to have been included every year, alongside Alphabet, Amazon, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Samsung and Toyota.

innovation thinkings business companies corporation rankings rank ideas tech technology thought think thinking
Only 20 companies have made the top 50 list more than 10 times. Image: BCG

Other consistent innovators include BMW and Cisco, which have both featured in 13 editions of the top 50. Only 20 companies have made the list more than 10 times, while 48 have appeared just once.

Who said being a serial innovator was easy?

Making their first appearances, this year’s newcomers include online retailer, engineering and appliance manufacturer Bosch, tech company ABB, pharmaceutical company Novartis and carmakers FCA and Volvo.

Among the old hands, some companies have made speedy ascents, including fastest-mover Huawei, which climbed 42 places to reach 6th place. Other standout climbers include Walmart and HP, both jumping 29 places.

Walking the talk

The most innovative companies are those that view the need to constantly innovate as a top priority, and support this approach with a coherent strategy and sufficient investment, according to the report. This group accounts for 45% of the more than 1,000 companies taking part in BCG’s Global Innovation Survey, which informs the top 50 innovator list.

innovation thinkings business companies corporation rankings rank ideas tech technology thought think thinking
One quarter of companies are not walking the talk on innovation. Image: BCG

At the other end of the scale, 30% of companies in the survey were categorized as "skeptical innovators," placing little importance on defining a clear innovation strategy or committing investment.

A quarter of companies sit in the middle ground, exhibiting an inconsistent or indifferent approach to innovation and its importance to their business.

"Committed innovators" have the winning hand, the report says, with almost 60% reporting an increased proportion of sales from products and services launched within the past three years, compared to just 30% of skeptics.

Big benefits

Large companies are increasingly using their size to “flex their innovation muscle”, the report states.

Dispelling the popular notion that smaller companies are the most agile and innovative, the report says bigger organizations could have an edge in developing winning products or services and creating progressive business models.

Barriers to this innovation cited by large firms include resources not being allocated to promising projects, and getting the whole organization to buy into the strategy.

This year, for companies large and small, the ability to innovate was especially important when tackling the disruption caused by the COVID-19.

Research for the top 50 innovator list began before the virus appeared, but the report says its big findings might be even more relevant as innovation leaders attempt to move past the disruption of the pandemic.

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