NEW YORK: Apple, Google and Samsung are seen as the most innovative global companies, offering a model for action in an area of increasing importance to firms worldwide, new research has revealed.

Boston Consulting Group polled 1,512 senior executives in over 20 markets, a panel which named Apple, the electronics pioneer, and Google, the online giant, as the leading players in this space, as was the case in a 2010 study.

Samsung, a rival to Apple, climbed eight spots to third and Microsoft, the IT specialist, retained fourth. Facebook, the social network, jumped 43 places to take fifth, while IBM dropped from third to sixth.

Despite its financial travails, Sony rose three spots to seventh, as Haier, an appliances manufacturer, improved by 20 and occupied eighth. Amazon, the ecommerce expert, fell three positions to ninth, and Hyundai, the automaker, shot up 12 places to tenth.

"In a turbulent economic environment, innovation is an important driver of the organic growth necessary to generate sustained, above-average returns," the study said. "Whatever form innovation takes, its goal is clear to successful organisations: to create value from ideas."

Corporations which had made the Boston Consulting Group's ranking of the top 50 innovators since 2004 had delivered a 4% premium in terms of their total shareholder return compared with the norm.

Fully 76% of participants reported that innovation was among their three main priorities, growing from 72% in 2010 and 64% in 2009. Scores here were 66% in both 2007 and 2008.

This rating stood at 90% in India and 89% in South America this year. While 81% of Chinese companies held the same view, this marked a decline from 92% in 2010. Figures also hit 80% in Europe and 66% in the US.

By industry, it was found that 91% of automakers were prioritising innovation, coming in at 85% for media and technology, as well as 83% for telecoms and technology, and 80% for healthcare.

Indian operators led the charts for of spending intent, with 95% expecting to raise budgets, standing at 89% for China, alongside 79% in South America and 75% in the US. Europe logged 57%, largely due to its financial troubles.

Some 74% of industrial products and processes firms planned to boost their outlay, in keeping with the trend that the number of conglomerates has risen on the list to 11, up from seven in 2010, and including BASF, DuPont, Tata and Virgin.

Precisely two-thirds of businesses were attempting to incorporate the "voice of the customer" more substantively into their R&D; the same number had a standard review process in place for ideas.

A further 76% used financial criteria when picking which ideas to develop, while 65% emphasised strategic importance. For 52%, consumer insights are playing a more central role, but only 51% believed they allocated resources efficiently.

Data sourced from Boston Consulting Group; additional content by Warc staff