Move over, Apple and Google. Auto makers, industrial firms and old-fashioned conglomerates are now some of the most innovative companies in the world. While tech and telecom firms still dominate Boston Consulting Group’s annual ranking, released Thursday, traditional companies, like General Motors and Siemens, are gaining ground.
The world’s largest chemical maker has roots that date to 1865 when it turned coal tar into magenta dyes. Germany’s BASF is now working with Monsanto to produce the world’s first drought-tolerant corn as it expands into plant biotechnology and transportation.
The French car maker, established in 1899, placed a big, early bet on electric cars. Renault is now introducing four electric models in Europe: A compact called Zoe, a sedan called Fluence, Kangoo, a delivery van and the Twizy – a four-wheeled scooter with a roof.
Belgium’s Anheuser-Busch InBev traces its origins to the Den Hoorn brewery in 1366. The world’s largest beer maker now makes lime-flavoured brew, cider and – specifically for young Chinese embarking on a night of karaoke – beer cans with fully-opening lids. It also plans to introduce new beer with higher alcohol content.
The 101-year-old firm is expanding research in the oil and gas sector in Brazil, and networks that mimic the brain to comb through big data. IBM inventors filed a whopping 6,180 patents in 2011 – making it 19 years in a row of top patent recipients in the U.S.
IBM’s supercomputer, Watson, competed in a game of Jeopardy against former champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in 2011.
Apple tops the list as the world’s most innovative company. The company, which became the most valuable in history (by market cap) last year after it launched both the iPhone 5 and the iPad Mini, has claimed top spot every year since 2005. Some analysts have criticized Apple, however, saying the pace of innovation has slowed, with more focus on evolution of products than inventing new ones.