Friday, 31 July 2015

MIT's 50 Smartest Companies: is "smartest" the same as "most innovative"?

The figure above depicts the "50 Smartest Companies 2015", as selected by the MIT Technology Review, which recently published its observations on the subject via a piece by Nanette Byrnes here. Says Nanette:
" ...  To make the list, a company must have truly innovative technology and a business model that is both practical and ambitious, with the result that it has set the agenda in its field over the past 12 months.

No. 1, Tesla Motors, has added another audacious idea to go with its electric cars. In April, it announced it would be spinning off a line of batteries in service of a big goal: remaking the energy grid for industry, utilities, and residences.

Of all the sectors we cover, biomedicine has had the biggest year. Companies have turned research breakthroughs, many powered by genomic analysis, into products that treat challenging diseases. Gilead Sciences, No. 15, sells the first pill that can cure most cases of hepatitis C. Bristol-Myers Squibb, No. 26, is selling an immunotherapy drug that is saving the lives of people with skin and lung cancer.

By contrast, energy companies have been far less innovative, it seems to us, so that sector plays a smaller role on this list. One highlight is No. 6, SunEdison, which is electrifying developing countries. ...".
The big year for biomedicine must be a tonic for businesses in that sector, since the death of pharmaceutical patents and the spectre of expiring patents leaping off the Patent Cliff like a pack of demented lemmings is an image that has become increasingly ingrained in many people's minds.  

But has the energy sector been less innovative? It works in very different ways from biomedicine and can't truly be compared. Medicine has something of a binary nature: either you have a cure or you don't, and the market for cures is statistically easier to address thanks to decades of public sector data collection.  However, both at domestic and industrial level energy is a market in which the introduction and adoption of any new system or device depends upon so many more variables: to name but one, plant and hardware may require large-scale capital outlay which is unattractive or non-viable before the costs of recovering outlay on existing equipment and systems have been recouped.  The innovative side of the energy sector also appears to the outsider to be far more diverse than the biomedicine sector -- and the energy sector, despite many attempts to make it more competitive, has not been able to develop the equivalent of the pharma sector's generic product manufacturers.

It would be good to compare the patterns of innovation in patenting in the energy and biomedicinal sectors, something that a tool such as Cipher would be well equipped to handle.

1 comment:

  1. If it was my money that was being ventured on any innovation-based project, I would prefer to see it invested in the businesses that come second to the market and, building on the experiences and technology that were already there, use them as a platform or springboard for their own activities.