UK companies missing from top 100 innovators

UK companies have failed to make it onto a global ranking of the 100 most innovative organisations

UK companies have failed to make it onto a global ranking of the 100 top innovators.

The list compiled by Thomson Reuters highlights the 100 most innovative companies based on metrics such as patent volume, quality, importance and impact.

But not one UK firm appeared on the 2013 list, whereas North America had the largest number of organisations.

“It’s not that UK companies aren’t innovating – Dyson, ARM and so on create patents at significant levels – they’re just not innovating at a sufficient level to break into the global top 100 listing,” said Bob Stembridge, lead intellectual property (IP) analyst for Thomson Reuters’ IP and science division.

France led the European entries with 12 companies on the list. But what are French companies doing that UK companies are not? Stembridge said the answer lies in research and development (R&D).

“Investment in R&D in the UK is $39.5bn, about $10bn less than France,” he said.

The list featured several global technology firms, including the expected appearances from US giants such as Apple, Microsoft and IBM. The list also included South Korean company Samsung, as well as several European companies such as Philips, Ericsson and Siemens.

Selected IT companies on the Thomson Reuters top 100 innovators list

  • Alcatel-Lucent
  • Apple
  • AT&T
  • Avaya
  • Blackberry
  • Brother Industries
  • Canon
  • Ericsson
  • Fujitsu
  • Google
  • HP
  • Honeywell
  • IBM
  • Intel
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Microsoft
  • NTT
  • Oracle
  • Panasonic
  • Qualcomm
  • Samsung Electronics
  • Sandisk
  • Seagate
  • Seiko Epson
  • Siemens
  • STMicroelectronics
  • Symantec
  • TE Connectivity
  • Texas Instruments
  • Toshiba

The study suggests that less expenditure on research and development is leading to a lower level of innovation within the business sectors of countries that do not appear on the list. 

To boost UK R&D, the government introduced Patent Box legislation at the start of the current financial year, allowing companies tax relief on profit made through sales of patented products. But Stembridge said it may take time to see the effects of this legislation.

“Off of the back of [the legislation] GlaxoSmithKline confirmed plans to invest an additional £500m in new research facilities and create 1,000 new jobs. So down the line, we might expect to see that having an impact and in future years we may begin to see UK companies on the list,” he said.

The UK is not the only country that missed out, with Chinese companies also failing to appear.

China became the top country for publishing patents in 2011, but Stembridge said that despite China’s high level of patent output, it may still be a while before we see its companies appearing in the list of top innovators.

“A large proportion of that filing of Chinese patents is domestic only – it’s only in China,” he said.

“It takes a while to pick up on inventions, so it may not have been around long enough yet to for that to be picked up significantly. For those reasons we don’t see a Chinese company yet, but they are knocking on the door, and we probably will see a Chinese company or two on the list in the next year or so.”

For companies to secure a place on the list in the future, they must file patents, invest in research and development, and look for an increased success rate in the conversion of patent applications into granted patents. 

Stembridge cited IBM as an example for success: “It has been on the list for the past three years and there’s no reason to suppose it won’t continue to be, provided it continues to invest in research and development and convert that into the patented innovation we see.”

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