The World’s Most Innovative Companies

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7. Qualcomm Inc (NASDAQ: QCOM)
> 2014 patent grants: 2,590
> Country: United States
> Sales: $26.5 billion

Unlike several other innovative companies — which have been on this list for many years — Qualcomm has risen rapidly through the ranks in recent years. Since ranking 41st in 2010, the company zoomed to seventh place this year, with 2,590 patents granted in 2014, a 23% increase from the year before. Over the past five years, the company’s patent filings grew by 294.2%, among the largest increases over that period worldwide. This growth was due in large part to increased investment. Qualcomm spent roughly $5 billion on R&D in 2013, up considerably from the less than $4 billion it invested on R&D in 2012. In addition to maintaining its relevance in the competitive wireless communications industry, Qualcomm’s emphasis on acquiring patents is also part of a strategy to generate licensing revenues.

6. Toshiba Corp
> 2014 patent grants: 2,608
> Country: Japan
> Sales: $54.9 billion

Based in Japan, consumer electronics company Toshiba Corporation has remained among the world’s most innovative companies for at least five years. The company was awarded more than 2,600 patent grants in 2014, up 8% from the year before. While many may associate the company with computers, Toshiba actually operates in a wide range of technology fields, including health care, infrastructure, and energy. For example, Toshiba was recently awarded a $1.6 billion contract to supply control systems for nuclear reactors in China. And while several of the most innovative companies compete fiercely with one another, Toshiba partnered with Microsoft in a recent deal to further advance the two companies’ pioneering efforts into self-checkout machines in supermarkets.

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5. Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ: MSFT)
> 2014 patent grants: 2,829
> Country: United States
> Sales: $91.5 billion

Microsoft Corporation spent far more on R&D than the vast majority of companies. In fiscal 2014, Microsoft spent nearly $11.4 billion on R&D, a substantial increase from the year before, when it spent roughly $10.4 billion. The company’s routinely large investments likely contributed to the company’s large number of patents — 2,829 were awarded to Microsoft in 2014, a 6% increase from 2013. Microsoft is known for its near ubiquitous software products Office and Windows. However, the company is also part of the rapidly growing cloud computing industry. With cloud computing giants like IBM, Samsung, and Amazon.com already well-established in the sector, it may surprise some that Microsoft has reported dramatic growth rates for its cloud products. Microsoft’s Xbox has meanwhile become one of only a few dominant gaming consoles.