My past several posts have looked at the density of key economic and demographic factors across America's metropolitan regions. Today, I turn to the density of high-tech industry and of innovation. Long ago, the great economist Joseph Schumpeter highlighted the role of innovation in powering the rise of new industries, the creative destruction of existing ones, and the growth in prosperity of economies. Robert Solow won the Nobel prize for identifying the role of technology in economic growth and development. Paul Romer has shown how the accumulation of scientific and technical knowledge is the central force in endogenous economic growth. Michael Porter and AnnaLee Saxenian, among others, have shown how clusters of high-tech companies and other economic assets have propelled the rise of new firms like Intel in semiconductors, Apple in computing, Genetech in biotech, Google in search, and countless others that have introduced not just new innovations but whole new industries and epochs of regional growth.
MORE ON Density:
Richard Florida: The Density of Artistic and Cultural Creatives
Richard Florida: Creative Class Density
Richard Florida: Human Capital Density
Patents are the conventional measure of innovation. Despite their various weaknesses, patents represent a systematic, quantitative measure of innovation and are used by economists as the single dominant measure of innovation. But, as with other measures, economists tend to measure them on a per capita basis.
Innovation Density: Our measure of innovation density is patents per square kilometer. The map below shows the density of innovation based on this measure. The median density of innovation is .008 patents per square kilometer. The densest metros have more than .4 patents per square kilometer, while the least dense have fewer than .001.