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In ancient times, alchemists sought to create wealth by converting base metal to gold through a process of adding value to readily available materials. Although they failed, their efforts laid the foundations of modern science and led ultimately to the development of new technologies directed to addressing the global challenges of poverty, disease and sustainability of worldwide resources.

The transition from ancient theory to modern practice is a parallel to today’s innovation process – the transformation of an idea to a commercialized application. At the heart of both processes lies the desire to create a better world while driving economic  prosperity at the same time.

The Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovators program, now in its fifth year, seeks to celebrate this spirit of innovation by recognizing organizations around the world that have most successfully embraced innovation. They are shaping the future, improving processes and technologies, and generating commercial return to drive more innovation, more jobs, more revenue.

The Lifecycle of Innovation

The innovation process is a cycle, which we call the Lifecycle of Innovation.

Innovation begins with an idea that’s tested through experimentation to arrive at a discovery.  This is then developed through further experimentation, testing and prototyping to arrive finally at a product, process or service. The invention is protected to secure its rights, so it can be marketed to realize commercial return on the investment. The ROI can then be used to fund further discovery and feeds the continuation of the lifecycle.

The mechanism for securing a commercial return on investment is achieved by protecting the discovery and associated developments through rights of ownership. For technical innovation, the principle mechanism is through patenting. This enables the invention’s owner to control how it is commercialized, be that directly, through collaboration with licensing partners, or as part of a wider business strategy.

The methodology for the Top 100 Global Innovators uses various metrics related to patents as the means to assess and measure innovation, and to identify the most innovative organizations globally.


Many organizations use patents as a key measure of innovation - governments, academia and industry use them to inform policy decisions, track trends and for technological and commercial intelligence purposes.  However straight counting of the volume of patents, while useful, is only part of the picture.

For a patented invention to be valuable, it must be of good quality, have a wide market and lay the foundations for further development and refinement. Therefore, a robust assessment of innovation, in addition to counting the volume of inventions, should also assess the quality, globalization and impact of inventions.  The Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovator methodology, developed in conjunction with industry partners, does just that.


All organizations with 100 or more patented new inventions from the most recent five years are included in our analysis. A new invention is defined as the first publication of a patent document claiming a technology, drug, business process, etc., not previously described in prior art. In DWPI, these are called “basics.” DWPI provides a record of patents published by 50 patent issuing authorities worldwide to enable a comprehensive picture of the innovation landscape. Subsequent filings for the same invention are recorded as “equivalents” in DWPI and collated in “patent families.” The analysis counts these patent families rather than individual patent documents, thereby counting unique inventions only and avoiding duplicate counts of patents describing the same invention.


Patenting an innovation through one or more patent offices is expensive. Not all patent applications pass through the examination process and are granted. The success metric measures the ratio of inventions described in published applications (those patents-to-be which are filed and publicly published by the patent office but not yet granted) to inventions protected with granted patents over the most recent five years.


Protecting an invention in major world markets is an indication of the significant value a company places on its innovation and its intellectual property. The number of basic inventions that have quadrilateral patents in their patent families, according to the Thomson Reuters Quadrilateral Patent Index, is calculated to create a ratio that shows which companies place a high value on their portfolios in major world markets. The quadrilateral patent authorities comprise the Chinese Patent Office, the European Patent Office, the Japanese Patent Office and the United States Patent & Trademark Office.


The impact of an invention “downstream” can be determined by looking at how often it is subsequently cited by other companies in the patenting of their inventions. Through the Thomson Reuters Derwent Patent Citation Index database, citations to each organization’s patents are counted over the most recent five years, excluding self citations.

This methodology has been tried and tested over the last five years, and has proven to consistently identify those organizations that most successfully convert great ideas to great solutions and realize great commercial returns in the process. Over each of the five years the program has been running, the Top 100 Global Innovators have outperformed leading financial indices in year-over-year revenue, employment and R&D spend.

The Top 100 Global Innovators are truly a select band of successful innovators.

Overall observations for 2015

Comparing the performance of all organizations eligible for this year’s Top 100 Global Innovators designation (those with 100 or more patented inventions over the period 2010-2014) with last year’s performance, shows that overall innovation levels are slightly down (98.9 percent of 2014 values on average). This aligns with the findings in the 2015 State of Innovation report which showed a slowdown in the growth of global patenting to its lowest level since the global economic crisis of 2008.

This softening is most pronounced in the Globalization metric, which is 97.3 percent of the 2014 figures, on average.  This is likely due to a trend of focusing on key markets and a consequent consolidation in patent portfolios for the major innovators, particularly amongst Japanese organizations.

For the elite 100, however, innovation levels are collectively up as compared to 2014 (104 percent of 2014 average values). This is driven by an increase in Globalization for these organizations (107.3 percent of 2014 average values), followed by Success (103.5 percent of 2014 average values), and with no change in Impact compared to the 2014 average values.

European Companies Gain Share among Top 100 Innovators

Regional distribution of the 2015 Top 100 Global Innovators follows the same pattern as in the past: Asia, North America and then Europe, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Regional Distribution of the 2015 Top 100 Global Innovators
(SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI))

There are two fewer in Asia this year, the same in North America and two more in Europe, as compared to the 2014 listing.

Japan again leads the world with 40 Top 100 Global Innovators (39 last year),  followed by the US with 35 and France (back to 10 awardees compared to seven last year).  China disappeared from this year’s list. See Figure 2 for a breakout by region.

Figure 2: 2015 Top 100 Global Innovators Year-over-Year Regional Comparison
(SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI))

Industry distribution

Distribution across the different industrial sectors for the 2015 Top 100 Global Innovators varies compared to last year, as shown in Figure 3.

Industry Total 2015 Total 2014
Chemical 12 6
Semiconductor & Electronic Components 12 21
Automotive 10 6
Pharmaceutical 7 4
Computer Hardware 6 13
Consumer Products 6 7
Electrical Products 6 5
Industrial 6 8
Telecommunication & Equipment 6 7
Scientific Research 5 6
Transportation Equipment 3 3
Computer Software 3 3
Document Imaging 3 n/a
Oil & Gas 3 0
Electrical Power 2 n/a
Machinery 2 4
Media Internet Search & Navigation Systems 2 1
Medical Devices 2 2
Primary Metals 2 2
Aerospace 1 1
Healthcare Products 1 1
Grand Total 100 100

Figure 3: Top 100 Global Innovators Year-over-Year Industry Comparison
(SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Derwent World Patents Index (DWPI))

Chemical and Auto Sectors Show Strong Growth

Strong growth is shown in Chemical and Automotive sectors with corresponding year-over-year declines in the Semiconductor and Computer Hardware sectors. This again correlates with the findings reported in the 2015 State of Innovation analysis, that patenting in the semiconductor declined by 5.4 percent from 2013-2014 and there was relatively flat growth in the computing sector.

Other sectors remain at approximately the same levels. Oil & Gas makes a reappearance this year with three honorees, up from none last year.

Pharma Continues to Increase Presence in Top 100

Pharmaceutical companies continue to increase their presence on the Top 100 list.  This year, a total of seven pharma companies were included on the list, up from four in 2014.  Both Bristol-Myers Squibb (USA) and Bayer (Germany) re-joined the Top 100 after being absent since 2011. Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany) makes the list for the first time. The trend in pharma representation is noteworthy because the selection criteria tend to favor fast-moving, hyper-competitive industries where product lifecycles are short and advancements in technology are demanded by users.

A number of perennial recipients of the Top 100 Global Innovators recognition are absent this year including, most notably, IBM, while a large number of new honorees joined the group. Download the full report for a complete look across industries, geographies, newcomers and absentees. And, as always, keep on innovating!