Which are the world’s most innovative companies? According to the Forbes ranking for 2017, the world leader in this particular category is Salesforce, an American cloud computing and software company that has ousted Tesla after its two years in the limelight. But the Forbes ranking, comprising the world's 100 most innovative companies, gives plenty of food for thought.
One detail leaps off the page: fifty of these one hundred giants are American. One every two - an average that increases even more in the top ten, which features as many as 6 star - spangled companies.
Hot on the heels of Salesforce and Tesla are two online giants, Amazon and Netflix, separated only, in fourth place, by the first Chinese company in the standings, Shanghai RAAS Blood Products, a leader in biotechnology.
Also in this sector is Incyte Corp, which comes in at sixth place, ahead of two Indian companies: Hindustan Unilever Limited, which specialises in household products, and Asian Paints Limited, which sells specialty chemicals. Last in the top ten are the Korean Naver (software and online services) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (once again, biotechnology).
The only Italian company featured in the ranking is Luxottica, which comes in 76th.
What about Italian companies? The only Italian company featured in the ranking is Luxottica, which comes in 76th. Not bad at all, if you consider that just 22 out of the top 100 innovative companies are European (with France and Britain scoring 4 each, although the top company from the Old Continent is Denmark's Coloplast, coming in 29th). In any case, Europe hasn't done too badly, holding out against 24 companies from Asia. For an Italian company to carve out a place for itself in this elite is no mean feat.
Certainly, Luxottica has embraced considerable innovations, developed by the technological innovation centre set up in Dongguan, China, to improve the company's production processes. Luxottica is a pioneer of 3D printing, which it has been using for more than ten years to optimise production processes in prototyping and to create some of the components supporting its final product.
But Luxottica was also the first company to introduce digital surfacing technology, around ten years ago, enabling highly accurate surface geometry for prescription lenses, as well as excellent customisation. Another successful innovation involves in-mould labelling, whereby plastic items are decorated with customised labels that become an integral part of the final product.
Luxottica's success is confirmed by another survey, this time conducted by PwC, which focuses on the best companies in Italy. In addition to Luxottica, many very different companies stand out for their innovation. Brembo, for example, is a historic and innovation-driven leader in braking systems (such as brake-by-wire, an electronically controlled hydraulic mechanism that allows the user to instantly change the brake force distribution between the front and rear axle, a system that revolutionised Formula 1 a few years ago).
And then there's Alessi, the renowned designer of household products, and other companies born in the digital era, such as BeInToo, a mobile marketing company established in 2011, Augmenta, a virtual reality start-up, and Satispay, which has introduced a revolutionary way of transferring money simply with the use of a mobile phone.
In a few months, Forbes will be updating its ranking for the year 2018, and who knows, there might be room for a second Italian company, perhaps one of those listed by PwC.