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COVID-19 demonstrates the importance of innovation excellence


According to the latest report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Most Innovative Companies 2021: Overcoming the Innovation Readiness Gap, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of innovation excellence in turbulent times.

Pharma companies performed strongly this year, joining technology and software companies that have dominated the rankings in recent years. The survey also identified strong regional variations in the innovation readiness of companies, with China and the US in the lead.

Thus, the report reveals that only 20% of companies in the world have developed high-performing innovation systems that can transform their ambitious aspirations into real results.

Moreover, some industries show big gaps in innovation readiness. Companies that are both committed (they back priorities with investment) and ready (they have the necessary platforms and practices in place) are up to four times as likely as those that aren’t to outperform their peers in terms of revenues from new products, services, and business models.

“Innovative companies have reaped the benefit of their earlier investment through this current crisis period, both for their shareholders and in terms of wider societal impact,” said Ramón Baeza, BCG managing director and senior partner and a coauthor of the report.

This year’s ranking of the 50 most innovative companies underscores the power of commitment and readiness. In addition to 33 holdovers from last year, the 2021 list includes 12 companies that have returned to the top 50 after an absence of at least one year, and 5 firms that are new to the list. While technology and software companies (Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, Tesla) continue to dominate, this year’s ranking saw a breakout performance by pharma, with 9 companies ranked (three times the number in 2020), a third of them (Abbott Labs, Moderna and AstraZeneca) making their first appearance there.

The US continues to lead with 27 of the top 50 companies (up by 2 from last year), driven by tech, software, and pharma companies. Owing to its relative lack of tech and software companies, Europe placed only 11 companies on this year’s list (down by 4 from the previous year), but it remained competitive in other sectors including automotive, medtech, pharma, industrials, and fashion. Although China earned only 4 spots among the top 50, more Chinese companies are likely break into the ranking in coming years as they compete more visibly in global markets.

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