California Ranks No. 3 for Innovation

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Main News Photo

(Orange County Register)

California ranks No. 3 for innovation when you look at national scorecards for cutting-edge business activity.

Southern California News Group business columnist Jonathan Lansen compiled a spreadsheet with an index at the state level using four recent “most innovative” rankings plus longer-term growth in patent filings by state. Here's what he wrote:

My tally was relatively simple math — a ranking based on each’s state average grades from innovation benchmarks that weigh everything from idea generation to technology employment to entrepreneurial infrastructure.

His calculation indicates that even in the economy-chilling pandemic era, only two states scored higher than California — Massachusetts and Washington state. Just behind the Golden State were Utah and Colorado.

As a reminder, the Boston area was a computing powerhouse when Silicon Valley was just forming, and today the region is a med-tech hotspot. The coronavirus vaccine was created by Moderna, a company based in Cambridge, which is also home to Harvard and MIT.

Washington state, like California, was built on aerospace smarts (think Boeing and Honeywell), becoming a computing powerhouse (Microsoft and Amazon).

Most lacking with innovation on this collective scorecard was Mississippi, followed by West Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and North Dakota.

California’s two big economic competitors: Texas placed 11th best and Florida No. 22.

Milken Institute: Its “benchmark for evaluating the knowledge economies” ranks Massachusetts No. 1, then Colorado, California, Maryland and Washington. Mississippi was last, then West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Nevada. Key competitors? Texas at No. 16 and Florida at No. 33.

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation: Its “New Economy Index” ranks placed Massachusetts No. 1, then California, Utah, Maryland and Washington. Worst? Mississippi, then Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Hawaii. Texas? No. 14. Florida? No. 22.

WalletHub: Its review of “indicators of innovation-friendliness” placed Massachusetts as No. 1 followed by Washington, Maryland, Virginia and Colorado. Worst? Mississippi, Louisiana, North Dakota, West Virginia and Arkansas. Texas? No. 16. Florida? No. 19.

CNBC: The innovation slice of its “top states for business” scorecard put California No.1 then Maryland and Massachusetts (tie) followed by Minnesota and Washington (tie). Worst? Nevada, then West Virginia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Dakota. Texas? No. 12. Florida? No. 28.

Patent growth: This contains a historic perspective — the St. Louis Fed’s tally of patents granted for the 2010s vs. the 2000s. It showed Washington No. 1, with 113% more approvals last decade. Next was Utah at 105%; Wyoming at 95%; Nevada at 93%; and Arkansas at 90%. California? No. 7 with 87% growth. Bottom? Idaho, down 36%; then Vermont, down 6%; Delaware, up 3%; West Virginia, up 10%, and Mississippi, up 15%. Texas? Up 67% — No. 13. Florida? Up 61% — No. 15.

California remains a national leader in break-the-mold thinking — from the tech wizards of Silicon Valley to the entertainment creators of Hollywood and San Diego’s biotech hub.

This kind of mindset is a hugely profitable skill, one that allows the state to survive, if not thrive, despite its many challenges. Innovation was an important economic driver (think Zoom and DoorDash) as the coronavirus chilled and changed the economy.

One wonders, though, whether California’s winning innovation streak will continue. Why can’t these same pioneering smarts be deployed to fix some of the state’s big headaches?

Category: Innovation, California