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GLOBALOUTLOOK R&D


Global innovation leadersin2020 C


ALEX IRWIN-HUNT GIVES AN FDI ANALYSIS OF THE WORLD’S TOP 100 R&D INVESTORS DURING THE PANDEMIC


ompanies are rampinguptheir researchanddevelopment (R&D) efforts to keepahead of


theircompetition,anddevelop prod- uctsandservices for the post-pan- demicage. Digitaleconomyheavyweights


have intensified theirR&Defforts to maintain theirdominanceasCovid-19 disrupts industriesworldwideand acceleratesmacrotrends.Amazon stoodout as theworld’s biggestR&D spender, followedby other big techs, aswell ascompanies in the pharma- ceuticalandbiotechnology,communi- cationsandautomotive industries. “People thought thatCovid-19was


going to stopR&Dexpenseandinnova- tion,andwhatwe’ve seen is the oppo- site,” saysRamónBaeza, amanaging directorandsenior partner in Boston Consulting Group’sMadridoffice,who co-authors the consultancy’s annual survey of global innovation experts. “Disruption ismuchbigger thanin


the pastandisbecomingmoreand moreimportant, [and this]makes innovationmorenecessary.Theway forcompanies to differentiate them- selvesandto gaincompetitive advan- tage is throughinnovation,”headds. Withdisruptionandinnovation


highonthe agenda, fDi hasunder- takenananalysis ofR&Dspending in publicly-listedcompanies basedon their latest published annual reports and,wheredata isunavailable,from investmentresearch platformYCharts. This analysis explores theworld’s


top100companies byR&Dexpenses during the calendar year of 2020.


Big tech dominates top five Amazon ranked as the leadingR&D spender in 2020, investing a massive $42.7bn—a figure 18.95% higher than a year earlier. This has helped it maintain its leading positionwithin the e-commerce, cloud and logistics industries, where it has had a pro- found impact on global foreign direct investment (FDI). WhileAmazonwontherace forthe


global topspot,thereissomedebate aroundits$42.7bnfigure,whichthe


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companyreports as “technologyand content”.Observershave claimedthis could lead toanoverestimateof its annualR&Dexpensesandpoints to downsides ofcomparingcompanies with different accountingpractices. Nonetheless,Amazon’s reportedspend on“technologyandcontent”was55% morethanthe$28.57bnbythenext closestcompany,Alphabet, theparent companyofGoogle.Appleand Microsoftwerebothalso inthetopsix. “Based on our assessment of key


technology trends, we maintain our long-termcommitment toR&D across a wide spectrumof technolo- gies, tools and platforms spanning digitalwork and life experiences, cloudcomputing, artificial intelli- gence [AI], devices and operating sys- tems,” Microsoft’s 2020 annual report reads. The US technologycompany hasR&Dfacilities in countries around theworld, including Canada, China, Czech Republic, India, Israel and the UK. Meanwhile, at 35.6%, Facebook


increased itsR&Dspending by the most out of the US big tech firms between2019 and 2020. The social media giant continues to focus on researchareas including AI, block- chain,computer visionand natural language processing.


East Asian giants Outside of the US, Chinese private tel- ecommunications giantHuaweimade it into the topfive, spending more than $21.7bn in 2020, an increase of 7.8%from a year earlier, according to fDi calculations based on their 2020 annual report. Thecompany has been the largest cross-border investor into R&Dfor several years—between 2015 and 2020,Huawei announced 76 greenfield FDI projects intoR&Doper- ations, according to investment tracker fDi Markets. In terms of annualR&Dspend,


the next-largest Chinesecompany was JackMa’s e-commerceempire Alibaba, with more than $7.9bn on R&Dexpenses in 2020, according to YCharts figures.


www.fDiIntelligence.com month 2020


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