What are the 15 Theories of Innovation?

Innovation Leaders has released its annual report detailing companies across 25 different sectors worldwide that accomplish the most from innovative activities. This year, Innovation Leaders highlighted three trends in its analysis: US dominance, partnerships and collaboration, and the impact of big bets and bold moves to deliver tangible, sustained growth.

We are pleased to announce the results of the 2016/17 Innovation Leaders research that identifies the companies which achieve the most from their innovation activities and deliver tangible, sustained growth. Now in its 16th year, this annual analysis profiles the global leaders across 25 different sectors, highlighting the shifts taking place and identifying new achievements.

As a core part of the research, Innovation Leaders tracks the link between innovation and share price growth. Year after year, the companies identified as being the most effective innovators outperform their peers and the market. Over the last 15 years average return of the Innovation Leaders portfolio has been 14.5% CAGR. In 2016, growth was 18.9% again significantly higher than the S&P500, NASDAQ and FTSE 100.

The 2016/17 Innovation Leaders results include a number of consistent performers from previous years such as Amazon, Apple, Inditex, LEGO and Reckitt Benckiser as well as more recent entrants including Accenture, Boston Scientific, Delta Air Lines and Nvidia.

The 2016/7 analysis reveals three notable trends:

US Dominance

After greater European and Asian presence over the past decade, this year 20 of the 25 leaders are US based organisations. This is the highest single country concentration since the research began in 2001 and reflects both the continued global dominance of the West Coast as a centre of innovation and its impact on other sectors across the country, some of which previously had a greater focus on M&A driven growth. The remaining leading innovators are based in Denmark, Korea, Germany, Spain and the UK. The drop in European presence on the list, down 50% within a couple of years, should be raising some hard questions about the future in London and Berlin especially.

Partnerships at the Fore

Although effective collaboration has been a key component of successful innovation for some sectors for some time, it is clear that, today, this is increasingly influential across the board. Organisations such as Accenture and Cisco and KT Corporation have positioned themselves specifically to help to drive customer innovation; companies like Adidas, Delta and LEGO are using partnerships to maximise brand impact; and firms including Boston Scientific, Dow Chemical and Lilly are all focused on collaboration across their respective ecosystems. Irrespective of sector, deeper partnership-driven innovation is very much at the fore. This does not suggest that the days of ‘going it alone’ are over, but highlights how, in an ever more interconnected world, delivering high impact change requires new alliances.

Big Bets

While some companies such as FedEx, Inditex, PepsiCo and Reckitt Benckiser, continue to focus on delivering consistent incremental innovation, more radical breakthrough approaches are core to several organisations’ growth strategies. It is clear from both new product launches and underlying patent activity. Alongside Alphabet’s significant ‘Other Bets’ activities, Amazon’s strong moves into AI and Apple’s major R&D investments, others are also raising the stakes. Whether this is Bank of America’s proactive positioning on block-chain, Humana’s investments in digital, LEGO’s movie partnerships or Nvidia’s expansion from gaming into automotive, more established companies seem willing to explore and support a number of major intelligent future growth investments: Tesla’s bold moves continue to capture many headlines but others are not holding back.

The 2016/17 Leaders

Based on the detailed ongoing analysis of innovation performance, R&D investment, new product and business launches and patent activity, these are the organisations that are the most effective innovators across 25 major sectors. Each company is categorised within the sector where it generates the majority of its revenues.

CompanySectorHQ Location
AccentureIT ServicesUS
AlphabetMedia and EntertainmentUS
AppleConsumer ElectronicsUS
Bank of AmericaBankingUS
Boston ScientificMedical DevicesUS
CiscoTelecom HardwareUS
Delta Air LinesAirlinesUS
Dow ChemicalChemicalsUS
Eli LillyPharmaceuticalsUS
First SolarEnergyUS
InditexFashion RetailSpain
KT CorporationTelecom OperatorSouth Korea
LEGOToys and GamesDenmark
MarriottHotels and LeisureUS
NvidiaIT HardwareUS
PepsiCoFood and DrinkUS
Reckitt BenckiserFMCGUK
XeroxOffice ProductsUS

For more details, please see www.innovationleaders.org

Key Insights

Across the identified companies, we can see varied approaches all having impact:

AccentureLinking digital and management consulting to drive client innovation
AdidasPartnership, brand-led innovation across the whole product portfolio
AdobeLeading the digital evolution across graphics and desktop publishing
AlphabetUsing significant, rising Google income to place many big, bold bets
AmazonSuccessful expansion from retail to cloud services extending into AI and autonomy
AppleWorld’s most valuable company is refilling its pipeline across a widening portfolio
Bank of AmericaProactive positioning on fin-tech and block-chain inspiring sector disruption
BoeingMatching commercial aviation performance with advances in defence and space
Boston ScientificGrowing influence across medical devices via partnerships and niche market focus
CiscoDriving growing cloud and IoT based transformation across the connected economy
Delta Air LinesMatching new seat innovation with more process and in-air experience partnerships
Dow ChemicalPervasive front-runner and driving force developing a more sustainable industry
Eli LillyStrong pivot to cancer and Alzheimer’s bearing fruit alongside the traditional core
FedExWorld’s largest fleet adopting greener fuels and competing on autonomous delivery
First SolarPushing integrated system adoption in a fast-growing but highly competitive sector
HumanaAdvancing digital healthcare to increase engagement, efficiency and reduce costs
InditexSustained incremental innovation optimising global multi-brand, fast fashion
KT CorporationDeep collaboration driving adoption of next generation technology platforms
LEGOWorld’s most valuable brand exploring and delivering the future of play
MarriottMajor hotel firm embracing innovation as source of guest experience differentiation
NvidiaHigh-impact expansion from processors for gaming into automotive and AI
PepsiCoSustaining “performance with purpose” to improve resource use and product health
Reckitt BenckiserNon-stop incremental innovator growing globally as a consumer health powerhouse
TeslaThe catalyst for change across the automotive industry leading from the front
XeroxIndustry pioneer, regaining leadership through focus on analytics and automation

About the Innovation Leaders Analysis

In order to gain an insightful and validated perspective on the true innovation leaders on a sector-by-sector basis, the annual Innovation Leaders analysis assesses the performance of 1,500 of the world’s top companies against a number of specific key parameters. The individual innovation and growth performance of the top companies within each sector are compared against each other and additional research around the differences between the leading organisations is undertaken to ensure that the perspectives gained are fully up to date. This provides what we believe to be the most accurate picture of the companies that are the most effective innovators in each sector, and allows us to highlight the respective key competitive strengths.

The eight areas that we research and input into the assessments across different sectors are:

  1. Organisational culture and supporting structure;
  2. Strategic focus on innovation driving corporate growth;
  3. New product launches and relative success ratios;
  4. Growth in revenues, profits and market capitalisation;
  5. Average revenue and margin per product or customer;
  6. Investment in activities such as R&D and marketing;
  7. Brand value and human capital growth; and
  8. Peer review from within the sector.

In addition, where appropriate, we look at recent intellectual property performance focused on US patents since these are the best independent objective guide in this area and act as a good proxy for innovation output. Together these are all used in sector-specific algorithms that calculate a ratio of innovation effectiveness – essentially identifying which companies gain the most innovation impact in relationship to the investments they make.

Over the past 15 years, a portfolio of stocks based on the Innovation Leaders analysis has repeatedly outperformed all major indexes. Average return has been 14.5% CAGR and in 2016, growth was 18.9% – significantly higher than S&P500, NASDAQ and FTSE 100. Year after year, this analysis has proven that those firms identified as being the most effective innovators consistently outperform their peers and the market.

For more information on this research please contact
[email protected]

The Innovation Leaders analysis is an annual global research programme undertaken by members of the Growth Agenda team. Its aim is to inform organisations on the most effective approaches for success. It is regularly used by governments and companies around the world to inform policy, guide investment and refine growth strategies.

About the author

Dr. Tim Jones is a recognised expert in innovation, growth and futures. He is the author / editor of eight books and a regular speaker on innovation leadership, growth platforms and future trends. For over twenty-five years he has worked with many leading multinationals, governments and universities identifying emerging opportunities: A leader in collaborative programmes, Tim has made his name in helping organsiations to see the world through a different lens and so reveal new areas for potential growth. Tim is Programme Director of the Future Agenda – the world’s largest open foresight programme; leads the annual Innovation Leaders analysis that profiles the companies making the most of their innovation investments and is also co-founder of a global advisory network, The Growth Agenda.

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