US R&D

Outspend and outsmart the Germans

main 19136731 AP – Google Street View auto camera Berlin Brandenburger Gate 2008
Encroaching on their home turf. Source: AP

In the center of Berlin, an Amazon research center employs 500 people developing a range of solutions, including the next version of the Alexa personal assistant, and software that can sense precise levels of ripeness in fruit. Next year, Amazon will open a second research center in Berlin, as well as another for artificial intelligence research in the south-western university city of Tübingen. Other locations for Amazon research include Dresden and Aachen.

Globally, the US online retailer has become the biggest spender on research and development investment, overtaking last year’s biggest spender, VW. A ranking of the world’s 1,000 most research-intensive, listed companies shows the German carmaker dropped four places to number five, while Samsung fell two places to number four (see graphic below).

As the list suggests, American IT and technology companies are currently the biggest R&D spenders. “The list shows that big American IT and technology companies are well out in front in terms of innovation,” said Peter Gassmann, European head of PwC Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting group. VW and Mercedes-maker Daimler are the only two German firms in the top 20 globally, while drug makers such as Roche, from Switzerland, and Merck & Co complete the top 10.

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