Which States Are Winning the Business R&D Race?

The National Science Foundation collects and releases a veritable fire hose of science- and innovation-related statistics that never get the attention that they deserve.* For example, earlier this year the NSF published a study entitled “Businesses Concentrate Their R&D in a Small Number of Geographic Areas in the United States.”

This study should be required reading for anyone interested in how the Innovation Economy has developed geographically. I’ve taken the liberty of doing some calculations on just a small portion of the reported data (there is much much more):

Let’s start with the ordering. California’s rank as #1 is no surprise. But New Jersey’s ranking as #2 and strong growth is unanticipated (though it’s consistent with NJ’s relatively high ranking in our Geography of the App Economy study).  New Jersey R&D grew almost as fast as Massachusetts over the 1987-2008 period.

The R&D spending in NJ, PA, and CT came mainly from the pharma industry.  I’m going to look to see whether these states have tried to build on their advantages, or whether they have let them dissipate.

Also a surprise is Michigan’s continued high ranking. Auto industry R&D has not been growing very fast. Nevertheless, the industry has poured an enormous amount of money into Michigan over a long period of time, providing a potential base for future tech growth. Indeed, our upcoming study on tech and economic development identifies the Detroit area as having a very interesting cluster of tech-related companies.

More to come.

*Full disclosure–I serve on a National Academy of Sciences panel which is conducting “a study of the status of the science, technology, and innovation (STI) indicators that are currently developed and published by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).” This post uses only public information contained in the cited study.

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