What's the Best Non-American Incubator

BCG Top 50 innovators: Google at the top for the first time

Google parent Alphabet is number 1 for the first time in the Boston Consulting Group's 2019 innovation ranking. Online retailer Amazon has moved up to second place, ahead of Apple, which was at the top for twelve years. Austrian companies among the top 50: Nothing.

2500 top managers worldwide followed the call of the strategy consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to choose their innovation emperors. And the result can be reduced to a single denominator: innovation is "Made in USA". Among the top 25 companies alone, 17 US companies were counted among the top innovators. Four companies from Germany, two from South Korea and one each from China and Brazil were also included in this ranking.

Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft lead the top 50 ranking of the world's 50 most innovative companies. And to the surprise: for the first time in twelve years there is a new winner: Google parent company Alphabet is number 1. This year, the previous series winner Apple is no longer top for the first time in twelve years, but has slipped to third place behind online retailer Amazon. Only in 5th place followed Samsung as the first non-American company. After that, the series of US innovators will be continued up to rank ten.

Video streamer Netflix joins the ranks of the top 10 and now comes in 6th after 13th place in the previous year. And then comes the computer veteran with IBM. Recently shaken, scolded and by some already named relegated with falling or stagnating sales and profits for almost 20 quarters, "Big Blue" still got the hang of it with the innovation experts surveyed - and the reputation of a high level of innovation.

IBM has even made up one place compared to the previous year and is now in seventh place. Facebook, otherwise in the myriad of rankings, has always been a candidate for the first five places for years, has been passed down by one place. After analyzing the innovation key figures, the respondents conceded the social media icon to be somewhat less innovative - 8th place, after 7th in the previous year. Tesla has lost three places. The e-car pioneer, who shone a lot of background noise and full-bodied announcements by its founder and CEO Elon Musk, was less able to convince the interviewed managers this year and is now in 9th place - after 6 in the previous year.

The Germans are coming

A sporting surprise comes from Germany: adidas kicks its way to 10th place. The sporting goods company is thus the most innovative company in Germany and jumped 25 places up in the ranking from 35th place within a year.

But the German flagships also do quite well in the perception of the managers. And made great leaps in the ranking with top ratings: With the chemical company BASF (from 23 to 12th place) and Siemens (from 21 to 16), two more have made it to the top 20. The Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Mobile US even made it into the top 50 for the first time and landed straight away in 13th place. However, the US subsidiary is considered a US company in the ranking.

Nine German companies made it into the 50 most innovative companies for the first time this year. Chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer (now 24 / previous year 27), the insurer Allianz (26/30), the car company BMW (27/36) and the software house SAP (28/42) have in some cases improved significantly compared to the previous year. Even the Volkswagen Group (including Porsche and Audi), which was arrested in constant headlines by the diesel scandal and the manipulation of the software, still enjoys a high level of innovator competence among the innovation experts. Volkswagen also made it into the top 50 in 38th place. In the previous year, the German auto giant failed to score.

Daimler is the only German company in the top 50 that has fallen behind this year. The car company made it to 47th place, 14 places behind the previous year's position.

The USA tops the BCG Top50 list with a total of 28 companies. With nine companies, German companies are the second strongest nation in the top 50 innovation ranking this year. This is followed by the Netherlands and Great Britain with three companies each, South Korea, Japan, China (two each) and Brazil and France (1 company each).

Innovation - more than a product

“The companies represented in the ranking are characterized by the fact that they think beyond pure product innovation. You have an eye on all customer interfaces and develop innovative services for your product, create new processes and build partner ecosystems where necessary, ”says BCG Austria boss Lukas Haider.

The fact that so many German representatives are among the top 50 confirms the trend of recent years. "German companies have recognized how they can use the data of their devices, machines and systems installed around the world correctly in order not only to keep pace with international competition, but even to catch up," says Haider. "The data are the basis for the further development of the business models."

The need to catch up across the board

As in the present case, rankings can show a beautiful picture of reality.

When it comes to evaluating one's own company, the picture is mixed, especially for Germany. All the more when it comes to future issues and, above all, digitization.

84 percent of the German executives surveyed give innovation a high priority in their companies. But when it comes to implementation, the number of those who act innovatively becomes thinner. Only a few companies have implemented digital innovation projects so far. Only around a fifth of companies rely on platform ecosystems, data analysis or digital design. That is on average almost eleven percentage points less than in the global comparison.

When it comes to artificial intelligence, a quarter of those questioned see themselves as pioneers, but almost a fifth as laggards. “The strong presence of German companies in the top 50 shows that more and more companies are able to develop into innovation leaders. At the same time, the self-assessment of the companies shows that there is still a lot of catching up to do in terms of innovative strength, ”says Florian Grassl, partner at BCG and co-author of the study.

Looking for partnerships

The success of US corporations and above all of the top tech companies Google & Co in the top ranks is no coincidence.

A recipe for success of the leading companies is likely to be based on partnerships. Three out of four of the US tech companies work in the innovation process with incubators, while more than four fifths use partnerships with science and other companies.

“In the digital age, innovation arises more and more often through external cooperation,” explains Haider. "The pioneers enter into sustainable partnerships and create platforms in which customers benefit from a combination of different skills and positions - and receive real added value."

Austrian companies are not represented in the top 50. BCG sees a "need to catch up" here.