Patent data is a rough but imperfect proxy for innovation; patents are often owned by large corporations or universities rather than individual inventors. But regional patent data does point toward areas of high intellectual productivity, and it's safe to assume that some of those patents flow from start-up companies.
Last year, I took a look at some of the subtler patterns that patents reveal. The map above is based on a measure of innovation density, which we calculate as patents per square kilometer.
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 ....It's not surprising that San Jose (Silicon Valley) tops the list with .831 patents per square kilometer or that nearby San Francisco is second with .446 patents per square kilometer. Los Angeles is third with .41 patents per square kilometer, followed by Trenton, Bridgeport-Stamford, Connecticut, Greater Boston, Boulder, Greater New York, Ann Arbor, and New Haven.The density of patents is closely associated with key regional economic outcomes such as regional wages (.668), regional incomes (.588), and regional economic output (.459). (As usual, I point out that these correlations only suggestion associations between variables. They do not specify any causation or make any claims about the direction of causality. Other intervening variables may come into play).
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Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is a university professor in the University of Toronto’s School of Cities and Rotman School of Management, and a distinguished fellow at New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate and visiting fellow at Florida International University.