It might be easier to explain the 50 Disruptive Companies project by starting with what it is not.

It is not a quantitative assessment; we don’t think R&D spending or numbers of patents and new products necessarily reveal what’s most meaningful about a company’s innovative power. It also is not a ranking. We don’t mean to suggest that any of these 50 companies is more important or better than the others.

Instead, this package is meant to capture the rich variety of ways that innovations get commercialized. Each company on this list has done something over the past year that will strengthen its hold on a market, challenge the leaders of a market, or create a new market. As we detail in four feature stories and three CEO Q&As in this package, some of these companies, like the thermostat maker Nest, have burst forth with a breakthrough product, and the question now is what the next one will be. Others, like the battery startup Ambri, are still on the verge of their breakthrough. Then there are startups like Pinterest that still have to figure out their business model, and long-established companies like Xerox and Microsoft that have managed to change how their customers think of them. And some members of this group are opening up opportunities by greatly expanding the use of existing technology—such as the Chinese genomics research company BGI.

The pace of technological change is brutal. Even Apple, which we have selected for this package four years in a row, has to scramble. We think TV will be the product that returns it to the list next year, but there are hardly any guarantees. Only 15 of these 50 companies were also here last year—or 14 if you don’t count Nicira, a cloud-computing company that returns as part of its acquirer, VMware.

–Brian Bergstein

Read more: MIT Technology Review's List of 50 Disruptive Companies for 2013 | MIT Technology Review.

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