America’s Most Innovative Cities

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10. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
> Patents per million residents: 1,204
> Patents per year: 310
> Industry with most patents: Computer hardware and peripherals

Santa Cruz is one of the smaller cities on our list, with the metro region containing less than 300,000 residents. Because of its small population, its 310 patents per year average was enough to make it one of the most innovative places in the country. Santa Cruz is home to UC Santa Cruz, which is by far the largest employer in the city, employing 7,364 people as of 2011. The next biggest nongovernment employer in the city, electronics company Plantronics, employed 505 people.

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9. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas
> Patents per million residents: 1,503
> Patents per year: 2,497
> Industry with most patents: Computer hardware and peripherals

A host of large technology companies such as Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD), among others, employ thousands in the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos region. Other major companies such as General Motors Co. (NYSE: GE), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Samsung have announced plans to bring more jobs to the area. The growth of technology jobs provided by these companies also has led to the creation of startups, further building on Austin’s high-tech reputation. The Austin area is home to the main campus of the University of Texas, one of the most prestigious public universities in the country.

8. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif.
> Patents per million residents: 1,638
> Patents per year: 7,003
> Industry with most patents: Biotechnology

Between 2007 and 2011, an average of more than 7,000 patents a year were filed in the San Francisco area, with more patents filed in the field of biotechnology than any other field. San Francisco has companies in a wide range of fields, but biotechnology is its biggest source of patents, and several biotech and medical research companies have major presences in the bay area. The San Francisco area is home to 33 top-ranked science programs — more than any other metropolitan area with the exception of Boston — with the University of California-Berkeley the school with highest number of top-ranked programs of any other institution.

7. Ann Arbor, Mich.
> Patents per million residents: 1,697
> Patents per year: 590
> Industry with most patents: Motors, engines and parts

Ann Arbor has a highly educated population, with more than 50% of adults having at least a bachelor’s degree — more than any metropolitan area but Boulder, Colorado. Also, 40% of the region’s workers work in the education sector — many at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, which employs more than 16,000 people. The university hosts 12 separate top-rated science programs, the fifth-most of any metro region in the country. Last year, a new patent office opened in Detroit, which, according to Michigan Congressman Gary Peters, stands to help the region get its patents through faster. The automotive field was the most innovative, filing more patents in Ann Arbor than any other field. But with major employers including Toyota Motor Corp.’s (NYSE: TM) 1,500 employee R&D center, this is perhaps to be expected.

6. Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown, N.Y.
> Patents per million residents: 1,829
> Patents per year: 1,226
> Industry with most patents: Semiconductor devices

More than 1,800 patents per million residents were filed by Poughkeepsie residents between 2007 and 2011. While Poughkeepsie is primarily known as a manufacturing town, the area also has some technology employers. IBM, which in 2012 filed for more patents than any other company worldwide, has a briefing center in the Poughkeepsie area. The United States Military Academy at West Point is also located in the Poughkeepsie metropolitan area. The median household income in Poughkeepsie in 2011 was nearly $67,000 a year, the 10th highest of all metro areas in the country.