Praised not for the size of its R&D budget, but for the "fuzzy front end" of its innovation

By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
November 7, 2012

FORTUNE — Although it spent less than Amazon AMZN on R&D last year, half as much as Google GOOG and IBM IBM and one third as much as Samsung and Microsoft MSFT , executives polled by Booz & Co. named Apple AAPL the world’s most innovative company for the third year in a row.

As the Booz report puts it,

“…it is not how much companies spend on research and development that determines success — what really matters is how those R&D funds are invested in talent, process, and tools.”

In the management consulting firm’s eighth annual survey, Apple, Google and 3M MMM retained their No. 1, 2 and 3 spots, respectively, Samsung rose for the second year in a row, and Amazon joined the top 10 list for the first time.

You can learn more about Booz’ methodology by downloading its media kit here.

Below: Who’s up and who’s down.

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