Innovation is at the heart of the technology industry, and whether it’s artificial intelligence, quantum computing or autonomous vehicles, tech giants and startups alike are constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

But with so many businesses dedicating resources to research and development, who’s making the most breakthroughs and who’s falling behind?

Capital on Tap looked at more than 2.6 million patent applications to see how the number of applications filed by tech companies over the last 12 months compared to the previous year and ranked the most innovative technology businesses in the world in 2021.

We also analysed patent applications for specific tech sectors to find the companies that are at the forefront of advances in the likes of 5G, virtual and augmented reality, and cybersecurity.

Top 25 most innovative tech companies 2021

Huawei

The Chinese telecoms and electronics giant has found itself the subject of more than a few debates in recent years, however, it seems that it might take more than allegations and sanctions to slow them down.

Having the most patent applications for two years back-to-back, Huawei is truly one of the world’s biggest innovators - ranking in the top ten for patent applications in the likes of virtual and augmented reality, 5G technology, IoT (Internet of Things), and edge computing.

Samsung Electronics

Another non-mover on the list is Samsung Electronics. Perhaps known best for their consumer electronics and for being one of the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturers, Samsung’s technology is also crucial to the smartphone market as a whole.

In fact, the batteries, semiconductors, camera modules and phone displays they produce are used by rival companies such as Apple, Sony, HTC and Nokia.

BOE Technology

Rounding out the top three is Beijing based BOE Technolgy. Describing itself as an IoT business, BOE produce displays and sensors that are used in everything from smartphones to medical devices.

Two perhaps surprising omissions from our list were tech giants Facebook and Amazon, however, they did break the top 50, coming in at 36th and 37th place respectively.

While businesses based in China take up two of the top 3 spots, the United States has the most individual entrants on our list with 8, followed by China (6), South Korea (4), and Japan and Europe each have 3 entries in our top 25.

Leaders in innovation

While our list of the 25 most innovative businesses might give us a good idea of the companies that put a premium on innovation and new ideas, which companies are making real strides when it comes to emerging technologies?

By analysing 10 years worth of patent applications that contain relevant keywords, we’ve found the organisations that are dedicating themselves to the technologies of tomorrow.

We’ve summarised the leaders of five up and coming tech sectors in the graphic below. But if you’re curious to see how they compare to their competitors, keep scrolling to find the top 10 patent applicants in artificial intelligence and machine learning, quantum computing, autonomous vehicles, 5G, and cybersecurity.

Top 10 innovators in virtual & augmented reality 

While some will just think of video games, Huawei foresees a bright future ahead for virtual & augmented reality (AR & VR). 

In a whitepaper published on their website, the telecoms giant outlines their vision of how the technology can revolutionise education and social networking and predicts that the market could be worth as much as $300 billion a year by 2025.

While Huawei commands a considerable lead, household names including Samsung, Microsoft, Intel, and even the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon all appear in the top 10.

Top 10 innovators in 5G

Promising users faster and stronger mobile internet connections than ever before, the 5G rollout is already well underway, Qualcomm has almost twice the number of patent applications as second place, Huawei.

As you’d probably expect, the majority of the top 10 is made up of other telecoms and mobile phone companies such as Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia, LG, and Apple.

Top 10 innovators in autonomous driving 

Thanks to its autopilot feature, you might expect Tesla at the top of this list, however, the car manufacturer doesn’t even crack the top 10.

While automakers get the headlines, many of the components and the software behind autonomous vehicles are made by third-party companies - of which, LG is the clear winner. Having partnered with the likes of Qualcomm and Microsoft, LG’s autonomous vehicles division is working on everything from how cars of the future will perceive their environment, process the information, and communicate with other cars.

While Tesla didn’t make the cut, car manufacturers that did make the list include Toyota, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Kia, and Waymo - the self-driving car project from Google owner, Alphabet.

Top 10 innovators in artificial intelligence & machine learning

From financial services, healthcare, and even children’s toys, artificial intelligence (AI) & machine learning (ML) are helping companies to create smarter products and answer increasingly complicated questions.

The AI and machine learning sector has grown exponentially over the last few years and is expected to be worth a staggering $299 Billion by 2026 - so it’s no wonder that some of the technology industries biggest players are investing heavily.

Front and centre are IBM with more than 9,000 patent applications in the last decade that contain references to artificial intelligence & machine learning. 

Top 10 innovators in cybersecurity

In a time where cyber and ransomware attacks are a real concern for individuals and organisations alike, cybersecurity is more important than ever

While it might not have the sheer volume of patent applications as other tech verticals, there have still been more than 6,000 patent family applications filed in the last decade. Among which are familiar names like IBM, Microsoft, Boeing, and GE, but also lesser-known specialists like Fireeye, and institutions including Bank of America.

Top 10 innovators in quantum computing

Quantum computing holds the potential to change the world as we know it and has the potential to solve some of the most complicated problems in a fraction of the time it would take even the most powerful supercomputers that exist today.

For example, if a normal computer tried to solve a maze, it would try every path one after the other until it found the exit. However, a quantum computer could take every path simultaneously.

With so much potential, it’s no wonder that companies such as IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and even Google are investing billions into quantum research.

Hugh Acland from Capital on Tap commented: “When we think of tech companies, we often think of consumer brands like Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, so it’s interesting to see more traditional technology manufacturing and telecoms companies outperforming the modern-day tech giants.

“While the number of patents a company has is one way of measuring how innovative they are, you could also consider their impact on the industry or society in general - although that might be a little bit harder to measure.

“Whether it’s a new way of solving a problem, or a product that just makes people’s lives easier, it only takes one good idea for a company to be considered an innovator.”

If you’re a young entrepreneur with an idea of how to shake things up, or an established business looking to launch a new product, you can access up to £100,000 in funding with a business credit card from Capital on Tap.

Methodology

Note: Patent Applications = Global Patent applications grouped by patent families

An analysis of 2,642,901 patent applications (grouped by patent family)

  1. By collating articles such as 'Biggest Technology Trends of 2021' we created a seed list of the technology industries biggest growth sectors.
  2. Using PatentScope, we found the businesses with the highest number of patent applications since 2011 that contained relevant keywords for each sector.
  3. To find the most innovative tech companies overall, we looked at the total number of patent applications for the companies identified during step 2, as well as the worlds largest technology companies by revenue and market cap.
  4. Data correct as of October 2021