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More innovative companies aren't just tech giants

Roughly 2/3 of top 50 innovative businesses are non-tech, study finds

A scientist at Gilead Sciences analyzes patient antibody levels at the Gilead laboratory in Foster City, Calif.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A scientist at Gilead Sciences analyzes patient antibody levels at the Gilead laboratory in Foster City, Calif.

Facing increasing competition and saturating global markets, more companies beyond technology are pursuing innovation and science as growth drivers, according to new data.

Roughly two-thirds of the top 50 innovative businesses are nontechnology companies, according to an annual ranking of innovative companies by The Boston Consulting Group released Wednesday. A natural growth path for multinationals is conquering new customers and geographic markets. "Once you've done all that, there's only one way to grow," said Michael Ringel, a senior partner and managing director at BCG. "Companies in any industry can draw on improved technology and science to drive innovation."

While up to 21 of the top 50 companies have squarely been in technology or telecom during the past five years, innovative health-care companies are breaking into the top 50 and top 10. Eight of the top 50 innovative companies in 2015 are in health care, according to the report.

Spanning multiple sectors, the top 10 most innovative companies for 2015 are:

1. Apple
2. Google
3. Tesla Motors
4. Microsoft
5. Samsung Group
6. Toyota
7. BMW
8. Gilead Sciences
9. Amazon
10. Daimler

Broken down globally, the top 50 includes 29 companies from the U.S., 11 from Europe and 10 from Asia. The full list can be found here.

Looking beyond in-house innovation

Beyond global- and sector-specific trends, the research also found more businesses are flexible about sourcing innovation from outside company walls. As speed to market becomes crucial to staying competitive, more companies are finding they can no longer afford to be picky about whether innovation was invented in-house or outside the business.

"Companies are becoming agnostic as to where they source their innovation from," said Ringel of The Boston Consulting Group.

He pointed to Foster City, California-based Gilead Sciences. Its 2011 acquisition of Pharmasset for $11 billion was pivotal in the development of Harvoni and Sovaldi, treatments for hepatitis C that cure more than 9 out of 10 patients with the most common type of the disease, according to the BCG report.

And Gilead Sciences' outside reach doesn't end there. The company has pioneered research and development and manufacturing models, such as licensing agreements with India-based manufacturers of generic drugs, to expanding access to its drugs in developing markets, according to the report. "They are very open to innovation from the outside," Ringel said.

Read MoreGilead posts huge beat on earnings and revenue

Correction: An earlier version of this story included the wrong percentage of nontech companies.