Knowledge Leader Company Research

Knowledge Leaders are highly innovative companies that possess deep reservoirs of intangible capital as a result of their history of investing in knowledge-intensive activities like R&D, brand development and employee education. When we talk about investing in highly innovative companies, most people think of tech stocks. But did you know the digital revolution is driving companies to lead their industries in every sector and geography in the world? To illustrate how each Knowledge Leader employs intangible capital in a different way, we feature our spotlight research on these companies below.

Charming the World with Jewelry Innovations

Company: Pandora
Country: Denmark
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 7/8/21
Summary: Expected to be available next year for a starting price around $350, Pandora says its lab gems are identical to mined diamonds in optical, chemical, thermal and physical characteristics but grown in a laboratory rather than excavated from a mine.


Organizational Capital at World Feeding Britons

Company: Associated British Foods
Country: UK
Sector: Consumer Staples
Published: 6/30/21
Summary: For this Knowledge Leader, firm-specific knowledge lies at the core of the strategy. The group’s five divisions are built around a small circle of business leaders it calls its “corporate center.”


Submerged in the Energy Transition

Company: Subsea 7 
Country: UK
Sector: Energy
Published: 6/28/21
Summary: As its traditional oil and gas clients began cutting back drastically, Subsea 7’s team changed course quickly and decisively, reducing costs across its legacy business and redirecting resources into the small but growing renewable energy business it had established to build wind farms in the ocean a decade before.


The UK’s Essential Retailer

Company: B&M European Value
Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 6/25/21
Summary: By focusing on stocking a limited assortment of only the most popular products within each category, B&M maintains a constant stream of new items every week, giving customers new reasons to keep returning to its stores again and again.


The Tiny Protective Layer that Makes a Big Difference in the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine

Company: Evonik
Country: Germany
Sector:  Materials
Published: 6/23/21
Summary: By repurposing two plants in Germany, Evonik was able to set up the urgently needed production teams in just eight weeks (a process that usually takes at least a year) and deliver its lipid technology months ahead of schedule.


When You Own the Forest, Every Business Goal is Sustainable

Company: Holmen
Country: Sweden
Sector: Materials
Published: 6/22/21
Summary: While many companies distinguish between business and sustainability goals, Holmen does not. Indeed, for a firm whose growing forests reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, every corporate goal must be sustainable.


Nuclear Emerging as Key Tool in Carbon-Free Future

Company: Cameco
Country: Canada
Sector: Energy
Published: 6/18/21
Summary: in 2020, Cameco supplied enough uranium to fuel nuclear energy capable of preventing the release of about 421 million tons of CO2. That’s the equivalent of taking 90 million gas-fueled cars off the road.

 


Chemical Progress Through Science and Humanity

Company: Solvay
Country: Belgium
Sector: Materials
Published: 5/28/21
Summary: Solvay’s Repel-O-Tex soil release polymers for laundry have hydrophobic and hydrophilic components that bind to fabric to release soils and stains while at the same time hindering further soil adhesion.

 


Cooling, Heating, Eating & Drinking On the Go Since 1922

Company: Dometic Group AB
Country: Sweden
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 5/26/21
Summary: This year Dometic launched Delibox, the first temperature-controlled food delivery box created to solve the No. 1 complaint from people who order in: food arriving cold.


Smarter, Affordable Construction for a New World

Company: Wienerberger AG
Country: Austria
Sector: Industrials
Published: 5/21/21
Summary: Before the pandemic hit, Wienerberger had recently digitized its processes, a coincidence that allowed it to keep supply chains in operation during lockdown and led to strong results and predictability during an extraordinary year.


Luxury Brands, Gen Z-Style

Company: Richemont
Country: Switzerland
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 4/8/21
Summary:  Richemont collaborates with technology firms in R&D areas such as embedded electronics, augmented reality, deep learning and recycled materials. 


Bernard Arnault’s Luxury Empire

Company: LVMH
Country: France
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 3/29/21
Summary: Today LVMH believes its decentralized model is key to its success, empowering each luxury brand to stay close to its customers and ensuring responsiveness and fast, effective decisionmaking.


Embracing Change in Every Maison

Company: Christian Dior
Country: France
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 3/26/21
Summary: The group maps future strategy for all brands using the same three core values: first, creativity and innovation; second, the fine craftsmanship through which each house has built its legacy; and third, entrepreneurial agility.


Embracing the User’s Point of View

Company: DeNA
Country: Japan
Sector: Communications Services
Published: 3/25/21
Summary: The company describes two values as instrumental to its growth. First, an emphasis on the user’s point of view, and second, a willingness to depart from the status quo.


Engineering the Future of Homebuilding

Company: LP Building Solutions
Country: United States
Sector: Materials
Published: 3/17/21
Summary: LP aims to innovate building materials to reduce construction costs, minimize waste, increase energy efficiency and foster safe home environments, and these two lines illustrate that commitment.


Insulating the Future with Knowledge

Company: TopBuild
Country: United States
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 3/18/21
Summary: Because the insulation market is highly competitive and fragmented, TopBuild considers its competitive differentiator to be firm-specific resources that have led to economies of scale.


Embracing Technology to Clean Up Mining

Company: BHP
Country: Australia
Sector: Materials
Published: 3/12/21
Summary: Technology is instrumental, the firm has said, to meet its future growth goals, with company-wide initiatives in cloud computing, robotics, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence.


Champion of Digital Transformation

Company: Groupe Bruxelles Lambert 
Country: Belgium
Sector: Financials
Published: 3/10/21
Summary: As an active, long-term investor GBL encourages its companies to embrace long-term trends, recently for instance, Adidas’ digital transformation and Umicore’s expansion in the electric vehicle market.


A Bias Toward Base Metals

Company: South32
Country: Australia
Sector: Materials
Published:3/5/21
Summary: In its new iteration, South32 has a bias toward developing its business in “base” metals, those metals considered common and therefore non-precious, where it expects to see growth as the world transitions to a lower carbon economy.


Best-in-Class Begins with R&D and Sustainability

Company: Investor AB
Country: Sweden
Sector: Financials
Published: 3/3/21
Summary: All of Investor’s work is based on the central value that to become or remain best-in-class, companies must invest in R&D, regardless of pressure from the stock market or other external forces.


Sustainable Innovation Via Safer, Smarter Mines

Company: AngloAmerican
Country: United Kingdom
Sector: Materials
Published: 3/1/21
Summary: The core of AngloAmerican’s innovation strategy is its “FutureSmart Mining” program, that combines technology, digitization, and sustainability to design what it calls “connected, learning mines.” Using data collected at every step of the process, the firm has found innovation and sustainability go hand in hand.


Driving the Future of Intelligent Tires

Company: Pirelli
Country: Italy
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 2/26/21
Summary: The firm’s “cyber” technology strategy involves building sensors into the tire to collect safety and performance information. In fact, Pirelli was the first tire maker to transfer road surface data detected by intelligent tires via 5G networks.


Where the Rubber Meets the Road to the Future

Company: Continental
Country: Germany
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 2/25/21
Summary:  Continental’s roadmap for the future involves paving auto industry innovation in safety and autonomy, a research initiative it has driven since 1999.


One Step Ahead of the Engineers of the Future

Company: Shin-Etsu Chemical
Country: Japan
Sector: Materials
Published: 2/19/21
Summary: The firm considers its differentiator to be its constant investment in innovating to stay ahead of new demands from global customers, those companies that are engineering the futures of autonomous driving, the Internet of Things, 5G, AI and more.


Turning Geopolitical Stability into Gold

Company: Agnico Eagle Mines
Country: Canada
Sector: Materials
Published: 2/18/21
Summary:  What makes Agnico Eagle an innovation leader in the sector is its unique view on growing production by selecting only those projects in regions it assesses to be politically stable, with governments that are supportive of mining activities.


Japan’s Pioneer in Personalized Patient Care

Company: Chugai Pharmaceutical
Country: Japan
Sector: Health Care
Published: 2/16/21
Summary: Chugai considers itself to be a pioneer in “personalized patient healthcare,” an area it sees as not only the future of its own business, but all of healthcare.


The Future Will Be Printed in 3D

Company: Sandvik
Country: Sweden
Sector: Industrials
Published: 1/12/21
Summary: One example of an old school company embracing new tools is Sandvik. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, and specializing in metals and tools for manufacturing, mining and rock excavation, Sandvik was founded in 1862.


Driving GPS Innovation Since 1989

Company: Garmin
Country: United States
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 9/24/20
Summary: Garmin’s is one of those stories we used to see a lot: private companies made in the USA and spawned from the fruits of federal government innovation, in this case GPS.


Innovating Gold Production

Company: Franco-Nevada
Country: Canada
Sector: Materials
Published: 9/4/20
Summary: The company accomplishes this objective via royalties and streaming, a model designed to reduce investor risk, for example, eliminating unexpected expenses at the mines or protecting from the impact of rising commodity prices.


A Pandemic Study in Embracing Change

Company: Fisher & Paykel Healthcare
Country: New Zealand
Sector: Health Care
Published: 6/26/20
Summary: Consider New Zealand-based Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, a top 10 manufacturer in the global ventilator market, a company one could argue was already prepared for the unknown by its disciplined approach to investing in the future. The firm’s long-term innovation footprint is easy to spot.


South Korea’s Top Search Engine Dominates with Web Cartoons

Company: Naver
Country: South Korea
Sector: Communications Services
Published: 3/25/20
Summary:  This Knowledge Leader’s R&D teams focus on what the firm calls “ambient intelligence.” Search results use AI plus data collected from users, such as location, preferences and mobility.


Changing Economics Where Fluids Flow

Company: Energy Resources
Country: United States
Sector: Industrials
Published: 3/2/20
Summary:  All of ERI’s products have been designed to convert wasted energy into a usable asset, driving immediate cost savings for customers. Indeed, the firm’s water products save customers $2B annually in energy expenses and reduce carbon emissions to the tune of more than 11.5M metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. 


Unlocking DNA to Protect Humanity from Disease (Including Coronavirus)

Company: Illumina
Country: United States
Sector: Health Care
Published: 2/20/20
Summary: A laser focus on innovation, Illumina says, is precisely the strategy that has established it as the global leader in genomic sequencing. It was a historic first to have published the complete genome of COVID-19 in such a short period after the outbreak was discovered. The genome has been shared “open source” style in a worldwide effort to enable research, diagnostics, treatments and potential drugs and vaccines.


Fusing the Physical World with the Digital

Company: Hexagon AB
Country: Sweden
Sector: Industrials
Published: 11/25/2019
Summary: Stockholm-based Hexagon’s unique focus on connecting data feeds, people, machines and processing power makes it the No. 3 most innovative company in Sweden, measured by R&D as a percent of sales, according to our intangible-adjusted data. 


When Cash Goes Digital

Company: Glory Ltd
Country: Japan
Sector: Industrials
Published: 11/6/2019
Summary: This Knowledge Leader is at work tapping semiconductor-powered technologies like digital currency and robotic automation to prepare for a future in which transactions will be just one part of a connected society on the Internet of Things.


Spawning a Knowledge Revolution in the Ocean

Company: Mowi
Country: Norway
Sector: Consumer Staples
Published: 9/16/2019
Summary: Salmon farming takes place in one of the world’s most valuable natural resources – the ocean – placing Mowi’s operations at the center of the global climate crisis. By providing one-fifth of the world’s salmon, Mowi is responsible for elevating health and sustainability standards in seafood farming not only for its own farms, but for the industry at large.


Etsy’s Virtual Marketplace Has Created 1.5 Million Jobs

Company: Etsy, Inc,
Country: United States
Sector: Consumer discretionary
Published: 6/26/2019
Summary:  Unlike Amazon, Etsy doesn’t warehouse or ship items. It never touches the custom t-shirts, or wedding favors or vintage 70s pantsuits sold on its website. Etsy makes money only when buyers complete a transaction with sellers, at which time Etsy takes a 5% slice of the cost of the item plus shipping costs. The firm aims to “keep commerce human” by connecting its record 60 million unique listings from around the world with their ideal buyers.


Streamlining R&D to Deliver Cancer Treatments Sooner

Company: PharmaEngine
Country: Taiwan
Sector: Health Care
Published: 5/24/19
Summary:  PharmaEngine was launched with the specific mission of getting to market faster with drug treatments. In our work, investment in innovation that so permeates the culture and mission of a company as to innovate not only its products and competitive position but also its business model is a frequent hallmark of a Knowledge Leader.


Under the Hood at the World’s Most Innovative Car Company

Company: Ferrari
Country: Italy
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 5/14/19
Summary: Invention in the world’s auto industry stands on the shoulders of one company alone, Ferrari. The Italian car maker spends a whopping 18.8% on R&D as a percent of sales, making it, by a wide margin, the most innovative car company in the world.


Tip of the Spear of Moore’s Law

Company: Cadence Design Systems
Country: United States
Sector: Information Technology
Published: 4/15/19
Summary: Making semiconductors is the most advanced manufacturing process in the world. Which is why firms like Cadence — which builds software used by engineers to design chips – are so critical to the pace of development in the semiconductor industry. Semiconductor makers can’t build new features into chips until Cadence builds them into the design. No wonder Cadence spends so much on R&D.


The Brains Behind Border Security

Company: Elbit Systems
Country: Israel
Sector: Industrials
Published: 2/22/19
Summary: Elbit’s most visible project at the moment is a cluster of 55 surveillance towers at the Nogales, Arizona, area of the US-Mexico border. Deployed in 2015 for the US Customs and Border Protection agency with more installations in 2016 and 2017, the towers cover a total of 200 miles, providing about 2,500 square miles of surveillance. Using radar, cameras and sensors, the towers quickly transmit data to a command center to provide situational awareness to patrol agents.


Novozymes, An Innovation Catalyst

Company: Novozymes
Country: Denmark
Sector: Materials
Published: 12/13/18
Summary: Novozymes is working to replace chemical processes with enzymes, naturally derived proteins that initiate biochemical reactions. If you eat bread or drink beer, you’re familiar with the work of enzymes. This Knowledge Leader ferments enzymes into tiny granules and liquids to help customers to produce more with less.


The Surprising Science Behind a Century of Soap

Company: Kao Corporation
Country: Japan
Sector: Consumer Staples
Published: 11/19/18
Summary: An analysis of Kao’s greatest hits reveals one strategy stands out: its commitment to innovation. After 130 years, Kao’s singular commitment to this vision remains, though the firm has refined it to a pursuit they call “interface science.”


How Energy’s Harsh Storms Led to a Greener, Smarter Future

Company: Equinor (Formerly Statoil)
Country: Norway
Sector: Energy
Published: 10/17/18
Summary: At the trough of the oil crisis in 2015, Equinor’s management was scrambling to prepare the company for an unknown future. Management believed that while the oil and gas industry would eventually recover, the industry would never be the same. The team decided to use the setback as an opportunity to reset the company. To embrace change. 


Inside Prada’s Knowledge Workshop

Company: Prada
Country: Italy
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 9/1/18
Summary: The real reason for Prada’s leadership is quickly identifiable to those of us who measure innovation. After nearly five decades of running what its CEOs describe as an “experimental workshop of ideas,” Prada has built up the hallmark of a Knowledge Leader company: rich stores of intangible capital that fuel future innovations. A look at our intangible-adjusted financial statements reveals the pattern.


Where Fanuc’s Robots Go, the Rest of Industry Follows

Company: Fanuc
Country: Japan
Sector: Industrials
Published: 8/16/18
Summary: With nearly half a million robots installed on factory floors in nearly every industry and every region of the world, Fanuc is in a unique position to illuminate the future of the knowledge revolution.


How Swatch Became the World’s Largest Watch Company

Company: Swatch Group
Country: Switzerland
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 6/27/18
Summary: Swatch Group not only lived to become the world’s largest watch company today, the company’s consistent and long-running investments in R&D, brand development and organizational capital have resulted in the accumulation of rich stores of knowledge, a key marker for Knowledge Leader status in our investment process.


Diageo, Toasting New Continents of Consumers

Company: Diageo
Country: UK
Sector: Consumer Staples
Published: 6/4/18
Summary: With about 730 million new consumers able to afford to drink alcohol over the next decade, 85% of them will be in the developing markets. Diageo aims to shape the drinking habits of an emerging middle class by offering famous brands like Crown Royal and J&B at affordable prices.


Why iRobot’s Robots Are Cleaning Up

Company: iRobot
Country: US
Sector: Consumer Discretionary
Published: 5/14/18
Summary: Through its military missions, iRobot struck on and began the multi-decade development of the technology that sets it apart from competitors. Reconnaissance tasks require a complex process of navigation and mapping. By trial and error, engineers developed an integrated system of software, hardware and electronics that enables its robots to complete complex tasks.


The Secret of Chevron’s Permian Dominance

Company: Chevron
Country: US
Sector: Energy
Published: 5/4/18
Summary: Chevron was one of the early Supermajors to revisit the Permian with new innovations a decade ago after production peaked in 1973 then fell off. New breakthroughs in hydraulic fracking industry-wide led production in the Permian to surpass its 1973 record for the first time in 2017. By the end of the year, production in the Permian is on track to hit a new all-time high.


Rio Tinto and the World’s First “Intelligent” Mine

Company: Rio Tinto
Country: UK
Sector: Materials
Published: 4/9/18
Summary: Later this year, Rio Tinto will seek board approval to spend $2.2B to build the world’s first “intelligent” mine, a network of robots and autonomous vehicles all working together on the site of the earth’s largest iron ore complex in Western Australia.


Will Shionogi’s R&D Machine Outrun the Flu?

Company: Shionogi
Country: Japan
Sector: Health Care
Published: 3/20/18
Summary: In the midst of the worst flu season in a decade, Japanese pharmaceutical company Shionogi & Co., Ltd. is making headlines for a new drug it says can kill the influenza virus in 24 hours with a single dose.

Disclosures

The information contained in our “Spotlights” is provided for informational purposes only and should not be regarded as an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy the securities or products mentioned and is not intended to be investment advice. Knowledge Leaders Capital may deviate from the investments or strategies implementation as discussed in the “Spotlights” and the opinions expressed therein are subject to change at any time for any reason without notice. Knowledge Leaders Capital makes no representations that the contents are appropriate for use in all locations, or that the transactions, securities, products, instruments, or services discussed are available or appropriate for sale or use in all jurisdictions or countries, or by all investors or counterparties.

The Knowledge Leaders investment process uses a proprietary methodology based on academic research. To create an intangible-adjusted financial history, we capitalize intangible investments—including R&D, advertising, brand development and employee training expenses—treating them as a company would tangible investments. Using these intangible-adjusted financial histories, we run each company through a proprietary Knowledge Leader screen. Companies that pass through every level of the screen emerge as Knowledge Leaders.

Past performance or historical trends are not necessarily indicative of future results.

Companies are selected for “Spotlights” based on high levels of innovation activities in their respective industries and illustrate innovation being employed across all sectors and geographies. Spotlight selection is separate from stock selection by the investment team. Spotlights are not necessarily representative of investment opportunities and can be selected regardless of investment performance or inclusion as a KLC holding.