Technology Review has announced the 2012 TR50, its third annual list of the world’s most innovative companies. The list spans public and private companies in energy, transportation, computing, Web and digital media, materials and biomedicine. The companies on the list, the editors say, are using their inventions to reshape their industries and transform how we live.
TR50 members are chosen by Technology Review’s editors, who look for public and private companies that over the last year have demonstrated original and valuable technology, are bringing technology to market at a significant scale, and are clearly influencing their competitors.
Companies included in the energy and materials categories reflect the invention of new technologies and also the ability of established companies to look at existing problems in innovative ways, the editors reported. Examples:
LanzaTech: Turned carbon monoxide emissions into fuel;
Shell: Learned to exploit oil resources that were previously impractical to tap;
Suntech: Developed a low-cost way of making better silicon solar cells;
Wildcat Discovery: Used high-speed methods to find materials that improve the performance of batteries.
WiTricity: Made it more convenient to charge electric cars.
Many of the public companies in the computing category were selected for their ability to continue to innovate in an established market. Apple’s Siri virtual assistant, which is built into the iPhone 4S for example, demonstrates a new kind of conversational voice operated interface; IBM’s flexible artificial-intelligence systems have the potential to assist people in many areas, including health care; and Samsung, which is rapidly becoming a major player in consumer electronics.
Several newcomers to the Web and digital media category are private companies with big ideas, the editors said. Examples:
Dropbox: Made its mark in the previously sleepy world of online storage;
OnLive: Allows users to access applications too powerful for their hardware to support;
Spotify: Digital music subscription service has succeeded where others have failed or had lackluster results.
Several of the companies included in the biomedicine category are approaching health care in a new way, such as PatientsLikeMe, which is transforming the notion of how a clinical trial must be conducted by encouraging patients with chronic conditions to share intimate details online and Athenahealth, which is reinventing health insurance as an exercise in information technology.
Technology review, the world's oldest technology magazine, is owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“The TR50 companies are leaders,” said Jason Pontin, editor in chief and publisher of the magazine.. “They are setting the agenda in their markets and prompting other companies to follow them.”