”Survey says” looks at various rankings and scorecards judging geographic locations, noting these grades are best seen as a mix of art and data.
Buzz: California ranks No. 3 for innovation when you ponder national scorecards for cutting-edge business activity.
Source: My trusty spreadsheet compiled its own index at the state level using four recent “most innovative” rankings plus longer-term growth in patent filings by state.
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.
This calculation told me that even in the economy-chilling pandemic era, only two states scored higher than California on this innovation composite yardstick — Massachusetts and Washington state. Just behind the Golden State was Utah and Colorado.
As a reminder, the Boston area was a computing powerhouse when Silicon Valley was just getting going — and today the region is a med-tech hotspot. Note the coronavirus vaccine created by Moderna, a company based in Cambridge — home to Harvard and MIT.
And Washington, like California, built on aerospace smarts (think Boeing) to become computing tech savvy (think Microsoft and Amazon, as examples).
Most lacking with innovation on this collective scorecard was Mississippi, followed by West Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and North Dakota.
Oh, I’d be remiss without mentioning California’s two big economic competitors: Texas placed 11th best and Florida No. 22.
What my spreadsheet found was lots of agreement on who’s best and who’s worst among the four innovation leaderboards and one key idea-generation metric.
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 through the entertainment creators of Hollywood to San Diego’s biotech hub.
This out-of-the-box mindset is a hugely profitable workplace skill, one that allows the state to survive, if not thrive, despite its many challenges. And innovation was an important economic driver as coronavirus chilled and changed the economy.
One wonders, though, whether California’s innovation-winning streak will continue. And why can’t these same pioneering smarts be deployed to fix some of the state’s big headaches?
PS: For my frequent readers who’ve seen my recent columns on South Dakota’s governor and her misguided beef with California, I’ll note my index puts her state at No. 36 for innovation.
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]