Not that long ago, innovation was a must-do priority for business. Now research and development might seem more like vacation homes and new cars--luxuries that will have to wait for better times. In an annual survey of top executives by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), more respondents said that innovation spending will be flat or down than since the ranking began in 2005. On the other hand, after focusing on shorter-term, lower-risk projects, a majority said they're satisfied with their returns on innovation investments. But recession and market meltdown aside, many of the corporations on the 2009 ranking are finding ways to forge ahead.
Perennial top vote-getters shouldn't take their positions for granted. Apple, which has always held the survey's top position, had 33% fewer votes this year than in 2008, while Google, consistently the list's No. 2, had 31% fewer. Why? Wrote one respondent of Apple: "Their products are improvements on previous technology. Their execution is flawless, but they are not necessarily innovative." Another respondent had the same criticism of Google: "Resting on past glory (search). Spending a lot on new things but no new breakthroughs."
To determine the list of the 25 most innovative companies, the Boston Consulting Group once again asked executives to name corporations that consistently offer inventive products, customer experiences, business models, or processes. BCG then factored in the financial performance of the top vote-getters. The final list weighted the survey results 80%, stock returns 10%, and three-year revenue and margin growth 5% each. In the case of privately held companies, BusinessWeek used metrics equal to industry performance to compare financial data.
BusinessWeek's special report, "The World's Most Innovative Companies," is featured in the April 20th issue, on newsstands April 10th. BusinessWeek.com will also feature expanded content, including an interactive table of the full ranking of the top 50 most innovative companies, a slide show on 50 up-and-coming innovative companies, and full methodology, at www.businessweek.com/go/09/innovative09.
THE 25 MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES
Rank Company 2009 2008 1 1 Apple 2 2 Google 3 3 Toyota Motor 4 5 Microsoft 5 7 Nintendo 6 12 IBM 7 15 Hewlett-Packard 8 13 Research in Motion 9 10 Nokia 10 23 Wal-Mart Stores 11 11 Amazon.com 12 8 Procter & Gamble 13 6 Tata 14 9 Sony 15 19 Reliance Industries 16 26 Samsung Electronics 17 4 General Electric 18 NR Volkswagen 19 30 McDonald's 20 14 BMW 21 17 Walt Disney 22 16 Honda Motors 23 27 AT&T 24 NR Coca-Cola 25 47 Vodafone