Even though the focus has switched from an area to another almost every year, the automotive industry is clearly one of the most innovative out there.

That’s mostly due to its high level of complexity, encompassing technologies from other areas and constantly developing its own. In later years, we’ve seen the emphasis of in-car tech jump from ever more complex infotainment systems to active safety features that naturally evolved into the autonomous driving capabilities that are all the rage right now.

Study Shows Japan Has Led the Charge in Automotive Innovation in 2015

But who do we have to thank for that? Well, according to Thomson Reuters’ annual list (quoted by Automotive News) of 100 global companies ranked based on their proclivity to innovation, Japanese brands are the ones heading the automotive field.

If you’re struggling to see all that innovativeness in these brands’ products and are somewhat failing, that’s because the study had a different approach. Since quantifying innovation is as subjective as ranking art, the study had to be based on some hard facts. And these were: how many patents the company was granted; how many regions the patents were filed in; how many times each patent was cited by other companies.

This year, three Japanese automakers were the only ones to make it into the top 100. Predictably, they were Toyota, Honda and Nissan. All the glamour of the German car industry didn’t help any of its brands make it into the top, even though Volkswagen’s defeat device clearly deserved an honourable mention.

Apart from these three carmakers, there were five more Japanese suppliers – Aisin Seki, Bridgestone, JTEKT, Yamaha and Yazaki – plus one from France – Valeo – and one from the US – Johnson Controls. Other companies that have strong ties with the automotive industry but are not exclusive to it were also named: Panasonic, Dow Chemical, Freescale, DuPont or Honeywell.

A previous report from the same source named the top five innovators from 2009 to 2013, and these were Toyota, Bosch, Hyundai, Honda and Denso. And speaking of Bosch, we find it odd not to see this name in this year’s top 100 list, with much of the advances in autonomous driving and safety features stemming from the German company’s R&D department.

Even though the sheer number of patents isn’t exactly a clear indication of how useful or important those innovations were, it does show a strong preoccupation for technological advancement in that company, and that’s enough to warrant a commendation. By; autoevolution