Recently the Wall Street Journal went looking for today’s innovation locales. Not surprisingly, they found that the innovations that spur the economy come from every part of the country. Many Americans are unaware that about two-thirds of US innovation comes straight out of the manufacturing sector. Manufacturers invent new technologies and processes and then turn around and use them in their plants and facilities.
Maybe it’s because my daughter is starting at Virginia Tech later this month, but I liked the way reporter Reed Albergotti pointed out some of the inventions coming out of Blacksburg, VA, home of Virginia Tech. Their university tag line is “invent the future” and they produce some of the best engineers anywhere in the country. But back to the article–local inventors there developed a patent for a product that could help warn pilots about pending engine failure. Another inventor came up with a more energy-efficient motor; another found a way to pack more information onto fiber optic cables.
Each one of these could transform industires and launch whole new companies.
The Journal combed through 475,000 US patents granted in the pasat four years and looked for the zip codes that have the most patent activity. San Jose, CA came in first, with nearly 4,000 patents alone. At the other end of the list was St. Charles, Missouri, with 25 patents–still, a 43 percent increase over 2002. The town is the home of a large number of engineers who used to work at McDonnell Douglas aerospace. The town has recognized this incredible resource and is seeking to harness it with two incubators to help nurture the growth of small companies with good, new ideas.
If you wonder if patents and copyrights mean anything anymore, you have to look no further than these towns like St. Charles, MO and San Jose, CA. Be sure to take a look at the Manufacturing Institute’s recent report on intellectual property, too. It was written by Professor Richard Epstein at the University of Chicago Law School and you can read all about by clicking on the link above.