Perpetual inspiration

29 companies have appeared in the Top 100 Global Innovators list every single year since its inception a decade ago.

With an average age of a century, these companies also record almost 2.5 times growth – compared to 9% for the Dow Jones Industrial Average or 10% for the S&P 500.

Our 2021 report demonstrates the hidden value of these companies' enduring commitment, as well as the influence and novelty of their patented research.

Explore the timeline to learn how these leading companies have established a tradition of innovation.

Download the Top 100 report

1665

Saint-Gobain

In October 1665, King Louis 14th of France granted a charter to minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert for a new glass and mirror making company, the Royal Mirror Glass Factory. With glassmaking expertise in the 17th century monopolized by Venice, the new company brought valuable Venetian glass makers, and their rare knowledge, across the Alps. After 365 years of prosperity and expansion with orders from the royal household (including the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles), today Saint-Gobain is a global supplier and innovator of high-performance and sustainable materials (including glass) across a broad range of industries – including construction, mobility, health and manufacturing. 

Company name: Saint-Gobain
Sector: Chemicals and materials
Based: France
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.saint-gobain.com/
1875

Toshiba

In 1875 Hisashige Tanaka opened Tanaka Engineering Works in Tokyo, manufacturing telegraphic equipment. Five years later, Ichisuke Fujioka established Hakunetsu-sha & Company, with a focus on developing the first Japanese-designed electric lamps. Later changing its name to Tokyo Electric in 1899, by 1905, Fujioka’s firm had formed a partnership with Thomas Edison’s General Electric and in 1921 created the world’s first double coil incandescent light bulb. In the meantime, Tanaka Engineering Works had renamed as Shibaura Engineering Works. In 1939 the two companies, both members of the Mitsui zaibatsu (a family of companies) and already partnering heavily, merged to form Tokyo Shibaura Electric. In 1984 the company rebranded to the abbreviated name Toshiba. 

Company name: Toshiba
Sector: Electronics and computing equipment, Hardware & Electronics
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.toshiba.com/
1876

Ericsson

Lars Magnus Ericsson opened his small telegraph equipment repair shop on Drottninggatan, central Stockholm in 1876. He soon expanded from small local repair jobs to working for the state railway company, where he began selling his own equipment. In six years, the workshop had expanded to 50 employees and was growing internationally. By 1897, L M Ericsson & Co had multiple factories both in Sweden and abroad and had produced more than 100,000 wall-mounted microphone and hand speaker telephones. 

Company name: Ericsson
Sector: Telecommunications
Based: Sweden
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.ericsson.com/
1876

GE

With the storied formation of Thomas Edison’s early laboratory in 1876 in Menlo Park, New Jersey, perhaps Edison’s greatest innovation was the creation of an institution dedicated to technology commercialization itself. Edison gathered financial stakes in many different corporations over the next 16 years, much of that equity via licensing his patents. The General Electric Company was finally formed in 1892 by the merging of the Thomson Houston Electric Company (created by less well-known, but equally important GE founders, Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston), and Edison’s own General Electric. Just four years later, GE was an inaugural member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. 

Company name: GE
Sector: Industrial conglomerate
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.ge.com/
1890

Dow

Bromine is a useful but very reactive element. Originally discovered in the early 19th century, it is found in salt water but is difficult to manufacture. Canadian-born Herbert H. Dow invented the Dow process – a way of electrolytically extracting bromine from brine – and opened the door to the first economical production in quantity. His first attempt at business met with bankruptcy, but settling in Midland, Michigan he opened the Midland Chemical Company in 1890. Looking to diversify both his business and his electrolysis process, but his financial backers being less than enthusiastic, he gained funding from his fellow professors at the Case School of Applied Science (now Case Western Reserve University). Reorganizing under first the Dow Process Company, then later The Dow Chemical Company, he succeeded in applying his technique to chlorine. Dow is still headquartered in Midland.

Company name: Dow
Sector: Chemicals and materials
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.dow.com/
1890

Emerson Electric

John Wesley Emerson was a Union army veteran who provided $50,000 ($1.5m today) and the use of his name to Scottish-born orphans Charles and Alexander Meston. The brothers had patented an alternating current electric motor design and saw the opportunity of connecting it to a fan. Opening premises in St. Louis, Missouri, the Emerson Electric Manufacturing Company supplied the United States with some of its first electric fans, bringing blessed relief for many during the humid American summer. While it no longer makes fans, Emerson is still based in St. Louis today, just nine miles from its first workshop downtown. Amongst many products for industrial, commercial and residential customers, it still produces climate technology solutions for hot days. 

Company name: Emerson Electric
Sector: Industrial systems
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.emerson.com/
1894

Roche

With money from his father and patents from business partner (and chemist) Max Carl Traub, Fritz Hoffmann opened Hoffmann, Traub & Co in 1894 aged just twenty-six. Marrying Adele La Roche in 1895, and with Traub leaving the firm the next year, the company was renamed F. Hoffmann-La Roche & Co. From its first premises on Grenzacherstrasse in Basel, Switzerland, Hoffmann quickly created cough syrup and vitamin medicinal products to be sold across Europe. Roche is still headquartered on Grenzacherstrasse, albeit in a much larger building.  

Company name: Roche
Sector: Pharmaceuticals
Based: Switzerland
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.roche.com/
1899

NEC

In the late 1880s, Kunihiko Iwadare, a Japanese electrical engineer, was working in the heady atmosphere of Edison Machine Works (later known as GE). Returning home, he took on contracts to represent GE and Western Electric (much later known as Lucent, now Nokia) as their agent in Japan. Galvanized by what he had seen in New York and with support from Western Electric, at the age of 42 Mr Iwadare established the Nippon Electric Company (NEC) in 1899. 122 years later, NEC generates almost $30 billion in annual revenues. 

Company name: NEC
Sector: Electronics and computing equipment
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.nec.com/
1902

3M

The five founders of the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company thought they had a winner. Signing incorporation papers at 201 Waterfront Drive, Two Harbors, northern Minnesota in 1902, they believed the corundum deposits along the north Lake Superior shore were a mineral fortune waiting to happen when turned into grinding abrasives. Their hopes were dashed when they discovered the corundum was actually low-grade (and poor abrasive) anorthosite. Quickly re-financing, the founders turned to research, sourcing different materials that they could use to manufacture sandpaper. A century after their founding, the company finally renamed itself in 2002 after its nickname: 3M.   

Company name: 3M
Sector: Chemicals and materials
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.3m.com/
1906

Honeywell

Mark Honeywell started his first company, M C Honeywell Heating and Sanitary Work, at the turn of the 20th century.  Honeywell pioneered automated heating controls. After installing his revolutionary hot water system in his own house, he patented his hot water expansion tank design in 1906. Building a profitable company, by the 1920s, mutually blocking patents between Honeywell and competitor the Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company saw the two firms join forces and become the Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company. 115 years later, Honeywell is a global conglomerate, and still well known for its automated heating controls. 

Company name: Honeywell
Sector: Industrial systems
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.honeywell.com/
1910

Hitachi

In 1906, Namihei Odaira was working as an electrical engineer for the Kuhara Mining Company, at its copper mine in the then small village of Hitachi in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. Located on the east coast of Japan, about 80 miles northeast of Tokyo, Odaira’s routine maintenance work led to his team designing a new electric motor. Funded by Kuhara-san, the president of the mining company, Odaira’s firm became independent in 1920. Hitachi, the village, is now a city of 175,000 people. Hitachi, the company, is today a global conglomerate with businesses that span construction, telecommunications, data and AI. 

Company name: Hitachi
Sector: Industrial conglomerate
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.hitachi.com/
1916

Boeing

Seattle timber baron William Boeing became fascinated with flight in 1910 after attending the first U.S. airshow in Los Angeles. In 1915, he took flying lessons before purchasing his own airplane, a Martin TA trainer. Within months, Boeing had decided he could build a better airplane, and enlisted the help of his friend, U.S. Navy Lieutenant George Conrad Westervelt. The result was a seaplane made of wood, linen and wire – the B & W after its designers’ initials. Exactly one month later, on July 15, 1916, Boeing founded Pacific Aero Products Company. When the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, Boeing had already been thinking about the prospects of military aviation. The following month the company changed its name to Boeing Airplane Company, and the U.S. Navy ordered 50 of the company’s new Model C trainers. In July 1927, Boeing’s newly-formed airline – Boeing Air Transport and soon evolved into United Aircraft and Transport. Though dissolved in 1934, its businesses live on in The Boeing Company, United Technologies and United Airlines. Today, Boeing is one of the world’s largest aerospace companies and America’s largest exporter. 

Company name: Boeing
Sector: Aerospace and defense
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.boeing.com/
1918

Panasonic

March 7, 1918, Tokyo: 23-year old Konosuke Matsushita opens Matsushita Electric Housewares with just three employees — himself, his wife Mumeno and his brother-in-law Toshio Iue (who would later found Sanyo Electric). In less than a year, the company would have 20 employees and focus on high quality and easy to use household electrical plugs and sockets. In 1955 the brand Panasonic was used by Matsushita Electric for the first time, only becoming the name of the firm in 2008. In 2009, 91 years after the original foundation, Sanyo Electric merged into Panasonic Corporation, reuniting the founding family’s businesses. 

Company name: Panasonic
Sector: Electronics and computing equipment
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.panasonic.com/
1926

Shin-Etsu Chemical

In the 1920s a plant manager at the Nichitsu conglomerate, Iwahasi Yu, created the Shin’etsu Electric Company as a new subsidiary, taking its name from the Shin’etsu region of central Japan. Continuing the development begun at Nichitsu of synthetic production of natural chemicals, by September 1926, the subsidiary had morphed into Shin’etsu Nitrogenous Fertilizer, producing chemical fertilizer and agricultural lime products. With the end of WW2, the large Nichitsu zaibatsu was broken up into several companies that still exist today, including Shin-Etsu Chemical. 

Company name: Shin-Etsu Chemical
Sector: Chemicals and materials
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.shinetsu.co.jp/en/
1926

Toyota

Sakichi Toyoda, the son of a carpenter, was a prolific inventor and entrepreneur that specialized in power looms for the textile industry. Establishing Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in November 1926, the company was expanded under Sakichi’s eldest son Kiichiro Toyoda, who focused the business on manufacture and development of their Type G Automatic Loom. Spotting the opportunity to create a domestic Japanese automotive industry, Kiichiro opened the company’s Automotive Production Division in September 1933. Toyota Automatic Loom Works still exists today as Toyota Industries, is a $20.5 billion company, and still makes textile equipment. The Automotive Production Division, now the Toyota Motor Corporation, is a $286 billion company. 

Company name: Toyota
Sector: Automotive
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://global.toyota/en/
1935

Fujitsu

In 1923, the Fuji Electric company was created as a joint venture between Furukawa Electric and German industrial firm Siemens. The name coming from Furukawa and the Japanese transliteration of Siemens as jiimensu, Fuji Electric span off its telecommunications arm as Fuji Telecommunications Equipment Manufacturing (or Fuji Tsushinki). By the 1950s, the company’s research in telecoms and data had produced the FACOM 100, Japan’s first computer. 

Company name: Fujitsu
Sector: Electronics and computing equipment
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.fujitsu.com/global/
1938

Samsung

Lee Byung-chul was born in 1910 in Uirueong County, near the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. From a wealthy land-owning family, he opened a logistics business called Samsung (“three stars”) with a $2,000 nest egg and 40 employees. Possibly as a reaction to the disruption the Korean War caused his growing company, he sought to diversify as quickly as possible, opening a sugar refinery, an insurance company, retail stores and, in January 1969, an electronics subsidiary by launching a radio and television station, as well as by manufacturing televisions and electronic components. Samsung Electronics’ rapid rise and technical achievements put the company in the spotlight in the semiconductor industry by early 1995.  Reinventing its research and product design philosophy in 1996, Samsung Electronics today is a global brand with annual sales of $200 billion. 

Company name: Samsung
Sector: Electronics and computing equipment
Based: South Korea
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.samsung.com/
1941

TE Connectivity

In 1941 Uncas Whitaker was a mechanical and electrical engineer (and lawyer) working for American Machine & Foundry. Starting his own firm, Aircraft Marine Products, just before the United States entered WWII, he specialized in easily inter-changeable wire connectors (avoiding more complex and unwieldy soldered connections) that the newly instigated war economy generated huge demand for. By the mid-1990s, AMP was a major U.S. electrical and electronic connector manufacturer, and was acquired by Tyco. When Tyco broke up in 2007, the roots of AMP emerged as Tyco Electronics. In 2011, it was renamed TE Connectivity. A global company now headquartered in Switzerland, one of its major product lines remains AMP Connectors. 

Company name: TE Connectivity
Sector: Electronics and computing equipment
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.te.com/
1946

Honda

Soichiro Honda was a garage mechanic and racing enthusiast, entering tuned cars into races. Opening his first company in 1937, Eastern Sea Precision Machine Company, it was a parts supplier to Toyota’s automobile department. When the effects of war and the 1945 Mikawa earthquake physically damaged the business, he sold it and opened a research institute in 1946. The institute was reincorporated as the Honda Motor Company in 1948, focusing on motorcycles. By the early 1960s, Honda was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, and its bikes were winning titles in international races. Racing and research ever hand-in-hand at Honda, in 1988 a Honda-engined car won both the drivers and constructors Formula One World Championships.

Company name: Honda
Sector: Automotive
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.honda.com/
1946

Sony

In May 1946, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita established Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation) with more than 20 colleagues in a room in the Shiroki-ya department store building in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. After developing and launching Japan’s first tape recorder in 1950, Ibuka’s visit to the United States led to the acquisition of a patent license to manufacture transistors developed by Bell Labs. Based on this technology, the company succeeded in launching Japan’s first commercial transistor radio, under the brand name ‘Sony.’

Company name: Sony
Sector: Electronics and computing equipment
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.sony.com/
1947

LG Electronics

The first ancestor of the LG group of companies was the Lak Hui Chemical Industrial Corporation, opened in 1947 by Koo In-Hwoi, a Seoul retail store owner. The company specialized in cosmetics and face creams. Pronounced “Lucky,” in 1958 it created Goldstar during the reconstruction of South Korea after the Korean war. Goldstar, with an early technical partnership with Hitachi, was by the 1960s manufacturing radios, refrigerators and televisions for the domestic Korean market. By the end of the decade, the firm had begun semiconductor fabrication. In 1983, the overall ownership had changed to the Lucky Goldstar Group, and finally LG in 1995. 

Company name: LG Electronics
Sector: Electronics and computing equipment
Based: South Korea
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.lg.com
1952

NTT

Founded as a state company in 1952, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone was only privatized in 1985. Now a $109 billion company, NTT has subsidiaries across IT consulting and mobile communications, and still provides the backbone of telecommunications across Japan. 

Company name: NTT
Sector: Telecommunications
Based: Japan
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.ntt.com/
1968

Intel

In 1953, Bill Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor, opened the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in Mountain View, California. Not knowing it at the time, he had just created Silicon Valley. Eight immensely talented members of the lab, upset with Shockley’s management style and with financial backing from Sherman Fairchild, opened Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957. The eight included Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce. While at Fairchild, Noyce invented the first silicon integrated circuit. He and Moore created their own firm in 1968, NM Electronics. Within a month this was changed to Intel – short for Integrated Electronics. They opened their first major facility two years later in the pear orchards on the corner of Bowers Avenue and Central Expressway in Santa Clara. Intel is still on the site today. 

Company name: Intel
Sector: Semiconductors
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.intel.com/
1969

AMD

Founding another of the “Fairchildren” (companies created by alumni of Fairchild Semiconductor), Jerry Sanders was Fairchild’s director of marketing (and an electrical engineer). With Moore and Noyce leaving the firm the year before, and frustration growing among the engineers with the direction at Fairchild, Sanders helped seven of his colleagues (Frank Botte, John Carey, Jack Gifford, James Giles, Sven Simonsen, Lawrence Stenger and Edwin Turney) open Advanced Micro Devices in Sunnyvale, California on May 1, 1969. In 1999, AMD launched the first microprocessor to cycle a billion times a second (though within days of fierce competitor Intel) and today manufactures chips for the PC market with features just 14 silicon atoms wide. 

Company name: AMD
Sector: Semiconductors
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.amd.com/
1974

LS ELECTRIC

LS ELECTRIC was founded in 1974 as Lucky Packing, a business of the wider LG Group of companies at the time. The power and automation industry firm separated from LG to become part of the LS Group in 2003, becoming LSIS. In 2020, LSIS changed its name to LS ELECTRIC, transitioning to a digital platform business. 

Company name: LS ELECTRIC
Sector: Energy and electrical
Based: South Korea
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.ls-electric.com
1975

Microsoft

Bill Gates and Paul Allen met at Lakeside School in Seattle, Washington, in the late 1960s. With Gates studying at Harvard, and Allen working at Honeywell in Boston, the two friends were excited by the potential of new microcomputers, such as the Altair 8800. Demonstrating their BASIC interpreter to Altair manufacturer Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems at their headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1975 Gates and Allen signed a contract with MITS for the rights to their interpreter for $3,000. Both became MITS contractors via their consultancy company, Micro-Soft, founded right there in Albuquerque. In 1979, Gates and Allen moved the company back to their hometown, settling now-Microsoft in Bellevue, Washington. 

Company name: Microsoft
Sector: Software, media, fintech
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.microsoft.com/
1976

Apple

Homestead High School, Cupertino, California, 1971: a common friend introduces Steve Wozniak, who graduated a few years before and was working at Hewlett Packard, to Steve Jobs, then still a senior. Both members of the Homebrew Computer Club, Wozniak designed computers in his spare time which he gave away (even offering designs to HP, which they declined), while Jobs constantly tried to get Wozniak to have them make money. Finally convinced, they created Apple Computer Inc on April 1, 1976; named after a fruit orchard Jobs had visited in Oregon and intentionally chosen to sound different to the generic three letter-acronyms of existing firms. When their first major investor came along, an Intel marketing executive, they insisted Wozniak quit his cherished job at HP. Today, Apple generates over $260 billion in revenue, its Apple Park HQ just 3,500 yards from Homestead High School. 

Company name: Apple
Sector: Electronics and computing equipment
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.apple.com/
1982

NortonLifeLock

Gary Hendrix, a computer science doctorate, was working at the Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, California on AI natural language processing and semantics in the mid-1970s. In 1979, with a $25,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, he formed the Machine Intelligence Corporation with colleagues from SRI, where they designed and ran their language algorithms on recently released Apple II computers. Gaining a huge $30m in funding from multiple backers, the company quickly burned its cash and failed. Convinced he could make something, Hendrix returned to his job at SRI, and in 1982 he formed Symantec. Acquiring Peter Norton Computing in 1990, Symantec became best known for its Norton Utilities software. In 2019, Symantec was acquired by Broadcom and became NortonLifeLock. 

Company name: NortonLifeLock
Sector: Software, media, fintech
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.nortonlifelock.com/us/en/
1985

Qualcomm

Irwin Jacobs, a University of California San Diego professor of computer science and engineering, founded Linkabit Corporation in 1968, a firm specializing in communication electronics. Sold in 1980, several Linkabit colleagues (Jacobs, along with Franklin Antonio, Adelia Coffman, Andrew Cohen, Klein Gilhousen, Andrew Viterbi and Harvey White) left in 1985 to form Qualcomm. A play on “quality communications,” the new company expanded from satellite communications into digital wireless systems and developed the first standardized Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) digital cellular system that is still the foundation of the mobile systems we use today. 

Company name: Qualcomm
Sector: Telecommunications
Based: United States
Winners: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021
Company website: https://www.qualcomm.com/

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