For the sixth consecutive year, Apple has topped the list of Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s annual special report, “The 50 Most Innovative Companies,” produced in collaboration with partner Boston Consulting Group.

Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Toyota Motor round out the top five. For the first time since the rankings began in 2005, the majority of corporations in the Top 25 are based outside the U.S. and 15 of the Top 50 companies are Asian — up from just five in 2006. China’s rise is biggest. A year ago its only representative was computer maker Lenovo Group, at No. 56. This year Greater China is tied with Asia’s postwar powerhouse, Japan, thanks to showings by BYD (8), Haier Electronics (27), Lenovo (29), China Mobile (44), and Taiwan-based HTC (47). Just ahead of General Electric in seventh and eighth places are newcomers LG Electronics of South Korea and BYD, with Korea’s Hyundai Motor claiming a spot at No. 22.

Boston Consulting Group’s annual survey of top executives, which provides the raw data for Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s list, suggests that the crucial factor of the drive of innovation is a mindset — a belief that innovation matters. In China, 95% of executives said innovation was the key to economic growth, while 90% and 89% of respondents in South America and India, respectively, agreed.

In the U.S., only 72% said innovation was important. Similarly, 88% of executives in China said they were raising their innovation budgets this year, followed by 82% in South America and 73% in India. The rate fell to 48% in the U.S., ahead of only Japan, where just 34% of executives said their companies planned to increase innovation spending. All of which suggests the U.S. may not be dominating the list again soon.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s “The 50 Most Innovative Companies” special report is based on data from Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Last December, the consultancy e-mailed a 21-question poll to senior executives around the globe. The 1,590 respondents, who answered anonymously, were asked to name the most innovative companies from outside their own industry in 2009. BCG then factored in the financial performance of the top vote-getters. The final lists weights the survey results 80%, stock returns 10%, and three year revenue and margin growth 5% each.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s special report, “The 50 Most Innovative Companies,” is featured in the April 26 issue, on newsstands April 16. will also feature expanded content, including an interactive table of the full ranking and methodology, at .