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LanzaTech named a top tech innovator

The third annual list of the world’s most innovative technology companies has been released and LanzaTech is proudly flying the Kiwi flag on there.

The third annual list of the world’s most innovative technology companies has been released and LanzaTech is proudly flying the Kiwi flag on there.

Another company on the list with a Kiwi connection is California-based Alta Devices, pursuing a new horizon in solar energy with New Zealand scientist Brendan Kayes leading the charge.

Technology Review today announced the 2012 TR50 as chosen by the MIT-owned magazine's editors, who look for public and private companies that over the last year have demonstrated original and valuable technology, are bringing technology to market at a significant scale, and are clearly influencing their competitors.

Spanning energy, transportation, computing, web and digital media, materials, and biomedicine, the 50 companies are "setting the agenda in their markets and prompting other companies to follow them", as editor-in-chief Jason Pontin puts it.

LanzaTech is hard at work turning carbon monoxide emissions into fuel while Alta Devices is focusing on commercialising solar cells.

As a group, the TR50 companies represent the magazine's best judgment of the commercial innovations most likely to change lives around the world.

A fair share of heavyweights also feature, including Apple, Samsung, Google, IBM, Dreamworks, Shell, General Electric and Alcatel-Lucent. 

Several newcomers to the web and digital media category are private companies with big ideas. For example, Dropbox has made its mark in the previously sleepy world of online storage and Spotify’s digital music subscription service has succeeded where others have failed.

In the social space, Facebook, Twitter and Zynga also made this year's top 50.

Eighteen of the companies on the 2011 TR50 returned this year (seven are making their third appearance).

Sometimes companies fall off the list because of a decline in the prospects of an entire sector, the magazine says – despite being strongly represented in 2010 and 2011, advanced-biofuels companies are absent as the sector has generally failed to scale up production to a level that can begin to make serious inroads into the use of conventional oil.

"In other cases, individual companies lose the vision that made them worthy of the TR50. One such example is Netflix, which we selected last year for piggybacking a video-on-demand service onto its existing DVD-by-mail subscriptions. Netflix had already disrupted the business model of brick-and-mortar video rental stores and cleverly maneuvered to prevent itself from being disrupted in turn by streaming video technology.

"But later in 2011, the company tried to split the streaming side of its operations from its DVD service, an ill-fated decision that provoked public ridicule and the loss of hundreds of thousands of subscribers before the company reversed course. Suddenly, Netflix wasn’t able to clearly dictate its own agenda, let alone that of the entertainment industry."