Automakers Rank Top among Global Innovators

A new innovation and product development survey by The Boston Consulting Group shows that the automotive and high-tech sectors are some of the most innovative on our planet.

BCG surveyed 1,500 senior executives across all industries and regions, looking at their innovation track record as well as their values and plans for the future. It also considered revenue and R&D spending.

Not surprisingly, among the 50 most innovative companies ranked, Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft came in at the top of the list.

Perhaps of more interest, automotive manufacturers gained a huge foothold on the list, accounting for over one-third of companies ranked in the top 50.

Toyota, Ford and BMW all ranked in the top 10, while Volkswagen and General Motors were two of the biggest gainers, moving up 31 and 16 places, respectively.

Safety, mobile technology, and government mandates on fuel efficiency are all factors driving automakers to be more innovative.

Higher fuel-efficiency standards have brought on a slew of new electric and hybrid vehicles, more efficient power trains, and lighter car bodies. Vehicle safety has led to innovation around self-braking systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications. And as consumers become evermore hooked on their mobile devices and demand the same kinds of technologies in their cars, auto manufactures are racing to integrate car electronics and entertainment systems with smartphones and more.

There’s a few newcomers to the BCG list, including Tesla, which ranked at number 41. Tesla’s electric sports car is making inroads into the luxury segment, and the company recently announced it’s working on a self-driving vehicle that could be available within the next three years.

Tesla follows in the footsteps of Google, which already has a driverless car on the roads, and Nissan and other auto manufacturers are not far behind.

It’s clear from the BCG survey that all industries perceive innovation as a crucial investment going forward, but the automotive and high-tech industries are leading the charge. Almost 85 percent of respondents in both sectors rated innovation as a top priority, while one-quarter of respondents at auto companies rated their companies as strong innovators, compared with an average of one-fifth overall.

Approximately 70 percent of respondents from auto and tech companies said they plan to increase investment in innovation in the coming year.

Across the board, from high-tech and healthcare to consumer retail to industrial products, survey respondents indicated that there are key drivers—outside of finance—to their innovation success.

Eighty-three percent of top innovators said that senior management is a major force behind innovation. And the best innovators also listen to their customers. Seventy-three percent of the strongest innovators said that customers play a significant role in innovation and new-product programs, compared with only 42 percent of weaker companies and 56 percent overall.

Managing IP and using it as a competitive advantage was also listed as a key driver of innovation, with almost 70 percent of respondents saying that IP is increasingly important in their industry, and a similar percentage saying that owning IP is crucial to achieving a return on innovation.

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