BOSTON: US companies make up more than half (29) of the world's top 50 most innovative firms, according to a new report that identifies four key factors underpinning success.

Now in its 10th year, the latest Most Innovative Companies report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG), shows Apple and Google retain the top two places, followed by Tesla Motors, the luxury electric automaker, Microsoft and Samsung.

Rounding out the top 10 are Toyota, BMW, Gilead Sciences, Amazon and Daimler, showing that auto brands account for four of the top 10 most innovative companies in the world.

In addition to the 29 US companies represented in the top 50, Europe accounts for 11 of them – with BT Group (47) the only one from the UK – while Asian firms make up 10.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the rise of Chinese and Indian companies, few of them make it into BCG's rankings. Tencent (12) is the highest-placed Chinese firm, followed by Huawei (45) and Lenovo (50) while Tata Motors (26) is the only Indian inclusion.

Another surprise finding, considering the impact of mobile technology and social media in recent years, is that three-quarters (76%) of the top 50 most innovative companies in the world are non-tech.

They include six financial services firms, which have been adapting their businesses to meet modern consumer demands – AXA (22), Allianz (25), Fidelity Investments (34), Visa (36), JPMorgan Chase (43) and MasterCard (48).

BCG, which based its analysis on a survey of more than 1,500 senior executives across various industries, also went on to identify four attributes that help organisations to achieve high levels of innovation.

Speed is important, with the survey respondents citing overlong development times as the biggest obstacle to innovation. Indeed, the proportion citing the importance of quickly adopting new technologies jumped 22% since BCG's last report in 2014.

Perfecting lean R&D processes has a major effect on speed, the report said, finding strong innovators is two to three times more likely to adhere to lean principles than their weak counterparts.

Thirdly, the report pointed to the importance of technology which it said is moving out of the IT department to support innovation across successful organisations.

Finally, BCG said expansion into adjacent markets is another key factor that fuels success.

"Adjacencies help innovative companies open new avenues for growth through exposure to markets in which they benefit from 100% of the share that they achieve," said co-author Andrew Taylor.

"To be successful, these companies frequently leverage existing capabilities in lean, speed and technology platforms to enable innovations, whether next door or further afield."

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