America’s Most Innovative Cities

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5. Boulder, Colo.
> Patents per million residents: 2,274
> Patents per year: 666
> Industry with most patents: Communications

The Boulder area has increasingly been home to technology companies in recent years. Like many of the metro areas on this list, IBM has a large presence in the area, with several thousand employees working in Boulder. Other companies among the top 10 employers in the region include computer technology company Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) and data storage company Seagate Technologies PLC (NASDAQ: STX). In addition, the area has been home to countless technology startups in recent years. Boulder is home to the main campus of the University of Colorado, the largest university in the state and the largest employer in the metropolitan area. Close to 60% of Boulder adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the highest proportion in the country.

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4. Corvallis, Ore.
> Patents per million residents: 2,319
> Patents per year: 194
> Industry with most patents: Semiconductors

Corvallis, Oregon, has one of the most educated populations in the country. It has the fourth-highest proportion of adults with a bachelor’s degree at 48.5%, compared to the U.S. average of 28.5%. The region’s productivity has exploded in the past two decades, increasing by an average of 2.6% each year between 1980 and 2010. Corvallis is built around Oregon State University, which is one of its largest employers. As reported in the Corvallis Gazette-Times, Skip Rung, a member of the city’s economic development commission explained that the city’s prolific patent production comes both from OSU, which has ramped up its efforts to commercialize research, and from computer maker Hewlett-Packard, which has a research campus in the city.

3. Rochester, Minn.
> Patents per million residents: 3,300
> Patents per year: 606
> Industry with most patents: Computers and peripherals

By far, the largest employer in the Rochester area is the Mayo Clinic, which employs more than 30,000 workers. In fact, more than 40% of the population works in educational and health services, the second-highest percentage of all metropolitan areas in the country. Once again, IBM has a significant presence in the region, which is where the computer and peripherals patents are likely coming from. Unlike the majority of the cities on this list, Rochester lacks a large higher-education institution. The University of Minnesota-Rochester is located within the area, yet enrollment is just over 400 students.

2. Burlington-South Burlington, Vt.
> Patents per million residents: 3,951
> Patents per year: 826
> Industry with most patents: Semiconductor devices

The Burlington metropolitan area boasts the presence of large companies that are helping to cement its innovative status. IBM builds semiconductors in the Burlington area and General Electric builds health care software at a facility in South Burlington, likely leading to more patents awarded. While lacking top-ranked programs in STEM fields, Burlington is home to the University of Vermont, the largest university in the state, with more than 10,000 undergraduates. In 2011, the median income in the Burlington metro area was $60,771, more than $10,000 higher than the median income across the country.

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1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
> Patents per million residents: 5,066
> Patents per year: 9,237
> Industry with most patents: Computer hardware and peripherals

With more than 9,200 patents granted annually between 2007 and 2011, San Jose received more patents per year than any other metro area to beat much larger cities such as San Francisco. The area provides world class-training ground in the STEM fields for promising talent. Stanford University is located in the San Jose region and has some of the most renowned science and technology programs in the world. Other notable colleges in the area include the University of California-Davis and Santa Clara University. After graduating from college, talented students from around the world can find high-paying jobs in the technology sector at companies such as Apple, Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB).