Among "high-leverage innovators," defined by the report as companies that outperform the industry financially while spending less on R&D as a percentage of sales, Chinese companies make up 17 percent of the group. That presents a big contrast of only three percent in 2007, the report said.
The report also noted that China and Europe are the only regions that saw high-leverage innovators increase in recent years.
One reason for China's rise as an R&D leader is simply the vibrancy of the country's economy in the 21st century, said Patrick Hui, a partner with PwC China.
Companies headquartered in China lead other regions by similar margins on indicators such as their executive team's involvement in innovation strategy and company-wide cultural support for innovation programs, Hui said.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2018, China's production in high-tech industries, strategic emerging industries and the equipment manufacturing sector expanded by 11.7 percent, 8.9 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively.