What makes a city innovative? It could be the number of patents it produces, creative uses of technology, or even cutting-edge solutions to common urban problems. These six cities combine technology and human ingenuity in creative ways, and represent some of the most innovative cities in the United States today.
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.
With a whopping 9,200 patents per year, San Jose and the surrounding communities dwarf the competition in tech innovation. Home to the Google campus, San Jose ranks first in science and tech jobs, creative jobs, patents per capita, and investment capital per capita. A day at the mind-blowing Tech Museum of Innovation tells you all you need to know about why San Jose tops the list.
With Amazon and Microsoft based in the metro area, innovation is second nature in Seattle. Consistently ranked in the top 10 cities for tech start-ups, Seattle is home to Hointer, the first robot-run clothing store. Customers click an app on their smart phones and within 30 seconds, their selections slide through a chute to their dressing room. Another click, and a different size or color appears. When it’s time to check out, swipe your credit card, and purchases are wrapped, packed, and waiting at the door.
Minneapolis is home to a huge concentration of medical device research, a high-tech field that regularly churns out patents. 3M, with its heavy research focus, is also headquartered there. A popular innovation is Nice Ride, the city’s free bike-sharing and mobile app program, which comes in handy with its best-in-the-nation park and bike trail system.
The main Dell and IBM campuses are in Austin, near the tech-focused University of Texas. The city receives about 2,500 patents each year, the ninth most in 2013. Austin is the recipient of one of the most envied innovations in the country: Google Fiber. As one of only two cities currently hooked up, Austin residents enjoy 1 gigabit Internet speed which about 100 times faster than anywhere else in the country.
The prestigious Kauffman Foundation released its 2013 Entrepreneurial Density rankings, and Boulder topped the list, with the highest number of tech start-ups per capita of any city in the United States. In fact, there is one high-tech start-up every 72 hours in Colorado. Tech-friendly public policies and STEM-focused curricula at the nearby University of Colorado encourage innovation. Boulder, perhaps not coincidentally, also tops numerous lists for being one of the best places to live.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
The city’s highly educated residents (50 percent hold bachelor’s degrees or higher, the second-highest in the country) are one reason Ann Arbor makes the list of innovative cities. The prestigious University of Michigan boasts 12 top-ranked technology programs, the fifth highest in the country. Ann Arbor is home to cutting-edge employer Menlo Innovations, a software company pioneering a “bossless” office. Employees, and occasionally their dogs, work in an open office-less space where operational and creative decisions are made by teams.
Innovation is flourishing in U.S. cities. While Silicon Valley used to have the lock on high-tech, America’s finest minds are setting up shop all over the country. These six cities host great examples of cutting-edge innovations, policies, and solutions.
Jake McHenry is a travel enthusiast, blogger and family man (not necessarily in that order) living in the Chicago-area.