The world's biggest companies are pouring ever larger sums into research and development despite the uncertain economic outlook. Total spending by the top 2,000 companies hit $711 billion in 2012, an increase of more than 6% over 2011.
Autos, tech and pharmaceutical firms continue to dominate the list but there are a few surprises.
For the first time since 2004, a European company holds the top spot. Volkswagen ( spent nearly $13 billion in 2012, boosted by its acquisition of Porsche. It ranked third in 2011. Volkswagen unveiled what it called the )"world's most fuel-efficient car" earlier this year. European automakers and component suppliers are increasing spending on R&D at a much faster rate than their U.S. competitors, the survey found.