What's Happening to American Innovation?

As we saw yesterday, Michael Mandel argues that commercial innovation in the U.S. has slowed in recent years. To shed light on this, my team and I tracked U.S. patent data since 1980.

The first graph above tracks patent applications and patents granted from 1980 to 2005. Overall, the trend-lines are up. The line is steeper for patent applications, but it also tracks consistently upward for actual patents granted. There are significant dips after the tech-crunch of 2001 and in the wake of the financial bubble, even before the economic crisis of 2008. But those dips do little to throw off the basic upward trajectory of American innovation. In 2007, the overall level of patents granted was significantly higher than a decade earlier.

The second graph below controls for population, tracking the trend in patents per 10,000 residents. The trend-lines tell much the same story. Despite two recent dips, the overall trend in patenting is up considerably over the past decade.

The evidence here does not appear to indicate a significant innovation shortfall. The most we can say is that the rate of innovation has leveled off in recent years when we control for population. Nonetheless, the overall trajectory of American innovation remains consistently up.

As we will see tomorrow, the picture gets a bit more complicated when we parse patents by U.S.-born (resident) and foreign (non-resident) inventors.

Presented by

Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in National

From This Author

Just In