Innovation news in brief: Apple; Internet of Things; farming; clean tech

Science and technology are important drivers of innovation

World’s most innovative companies revealed

Apple and Google once again retain the two top spots in the Boston Consulting Group’s latest annual survey of the world’s most innovative companies. Tesla Motors moved to number three from number seven last year, while Microsoft and Samsung made up the top five.

BCG surveyed more than 1,500 senior innovation executives across a wide range of countries and industries to find the 50 companies ranked as the most innovative.

According to BCG, there are four factors fuel that success:

  • Achieving greater speed
  • Perfecting lean R&D processes
  • Leveraging technological platforms
  • Systematically exploring adjacent markets

Underpinning all of these is science and technology, an increasingly important driver of innovation, the report continued, “which can enable new offerings, accelerate development cycles and disrupt the status quo”.

“It takes a deft touch to get processes right in R&D – you need appropriate control, but not so much that you quash creativity, the lifeblood of R&D,” said Michael Ringel, a BCG partner and the report's co- author.

“It’s all about doing the work right and doing the right work, ” he added.

Manchester IoT project scoops £10m prize

An innovative project in Manchester aimed at improving the services for its residents has been chosen as the winner of a £10m government-led technology competition.

The CityVerve Project aims to test better services using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology. It includes plans for talkative bus stops, which let bus operators know when commuters are waiting, and a network of sensors in parks and along commuter routes to encourage people to do more physical activity.

The IoT adds sensors and data analysis to equipment like streetlamps, vehicles or home heating equipment. These ‘smart’ improvements should help deliver more personal, efficient and flexible products and services.

Digital economy minister Ed Vaizey said: "I’m delighted that the CityVerve Project is the winner of our Internet of Things Cities competition. The project will bring real benefits to people who live and work across Manchester, one of our Northern Powerhouse cities.”

Open data could revolutionise farming

Open data could revolutionise the farming industry, according to the Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss.

Speaking at an Open Data Institute (ODI) Futures event on agriculture, Truss said: “As our population grows so does the demand on our food sources – I don’t see this as a problem, but as a huge opportunity. The UK has always been an early adapter of new technologies and we already feed the world better and more cheaply than in the early 1960s when our population was half the size.”

She added: “From tractors that use GPS to pinpoint crops to laptops that gather readings from soil moisture sensors across dozens of fields, our world-leading farmers are working better and smarter than ever before. I now want our hard-working farmers to seize the opportunity of open data and drive it forwards."

The benefits of open data are well known. In Holland last year satellite data was used to identify 30,000 acres of crops that have been damaged by mice and deal with the outbreak, and Plantwise collects and shares data from thousands of farmers to help them tackle disease outbreaks. To date, they have documented 150,000 case records globally and have created a sentinel alert system when crops are threatened by pests or diseases.

Truss added: “Data is one of our most valuable resources and Defra is leading the way in the open data revolution, opening up our vast data vaults and unleashing 8,000 datasets by next summer – 1,000 of which will be on farming.”

Data on the health of cattle, sheep and poultry and the condition of honeybee hives across the country will soon join the ranks of 3D LIDAR data, which was released in September and is set to boost the English wine industry by helping growers find the best land to plant their vines.

Multi-billion dollar innovation fund launched for clean tech

A new multi-billion dollar global clean tech fund launched in Paris this week is aiming to accelerate the “clean energy revolution.”

Mission Innovation aims to “reinvigorate and accelerate global clean energy innovation with the objective to make clean energy widely affordable”.

Countries participating in the initiative include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the UK, United Arab Emirates, and the US.

The first Mission Innovation meeting will be held in early 2016.