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When Fast Company set out to find the most innovative company in America, we wanted to rely on objective measurements, but that proved daunting. How can you quantify something as intangible as innovation? You can count up patents and discover that IBM is the leader, with a record 3,415 awarded in 2003. But patents have come to mean a lot less than they used to. The most creative companies of the Internet era — Amazon, Google, Yahoo, eBay — have only a few patents apiece. You can look at who spends the most on R&D, but a torrent of cash hardly guarantees breakthrough innovation. Over the past decade, Microsoft has poured $5 billion or more a year into research, but its vast expenditures still haven’t yielded the next big thing.

But then we found an outfit that does it all, without the overwhelming size and awesome resources of a GE. In other words, a company that proves that brains beat brawn. Pound for pound, the most innovative company in America is W.L. Gore & Associates.

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