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U.S. innovation centers around 20 metro regions

Posted by Shivali Anand

October 4, 2021    |     3-minute read (464 words)

Entrepreneurs in the United States are recognized for inventing across industries. Still, recent research sought to determine if such ideas are spread far enough across the country, and the results may surprise you.

Since about 2005, the 13 fastest-growing industries, including satellite communications, computer equipment R&D services, and manufacturing, have been mostly concentrated in 20 major metropolitan regions. And according to a December 2019 Brookings Institution report, dubbed "The Case for Growth Centers," the following five cities accounted for more than 90% of the country’s innovation-sector growth: San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose and Boston.

According to the report, only 16 counties account for around 30% of all innovation industry job roles in the U.S. This undoubtedly pushes such places forward, but it may be stifling progress in others, putting them behind from a tech perspective.

And, as the study remonstrates, it's not all good in the five top innovation cities. These hot spots for innovation also have sky-high housing prices and chronic traffic congestion. While college-educated employees migrate to the growing hubs, leaving noninnovative areas with fewer talented job applicants.

In addition to the five cities mentioned above, the report classifies 15 additional regions as "superstar metro areas," which are as follows:

  • New York
  • Los Angeles
  • Dallas-Fort Worth
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul
  • Houston
  • Portland, Ore.
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Atlanta
  • Austin, Texas
  • Denver
  • Miami

The fastest-growing industries

As previously stated, 13 high-growth industries are focusing on innovation. According to the study, these sectors account for 6% of the country's GDP, two-thirds of R&D company spending and 25% of U.S. exports. These are the industries:
  1. Scientific research and development 
  2. Basic chemical production 
  3. Pesticide, fertilizer, and agricultural chemical manufacturing
  4. Computer/peripheral equipment manufacturing
  5. Pharmaceutical/medicine production 
  6. Semiconductor/other electrical component production
  7. Production of communications equipment 
  8. Production of navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments
  9.  Production of software
  10. Manufacturing of aerospace products/parts 
  11. Satellite telecommunications 
  12. Data processing, hosting, and associated services
  13. Additional information services
According to the study, these verticals "represent a cohort whose R&D spending surpass $20,000 per person and have a STEM-worker proportion of 45 percent." While these categories are rapidly filling in the 20 "superstar" metro areas, other U.S. regions are losing jobs in creative industries.

The study's authors propose that the government direct additional R&D operations to a small number of noncoastal locations that already have research universities, as well as potential employees with advanced degrees.

They point out that this would allow certain metro regions to become innovation hotspots as well.

Madison, Wisconsin; Tucson, Arizona and Syracuse, New York are among the cities mentioned in the research as prospective development hubs. According to Brookings, these "potential growth centers" appear to be ripe for rapid innovation.

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