New prosperity report analyzes patenting, economic growth in major cities

Phoenix is in the middle of the pack when it comes to patents registered by residents, according to a recent report from the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.

The “Patenting Prosperity: Invention and Economic Performance in the United States and its Metropolitan Areas," released Feb. 1, analyzes patent data from 1980 to 2012 for 358 metropolitan areas across the country.

ASU sustainability research professor Jose Lobo co-wrote the report with Brookings Associate Fellow Jonathan Rothwell, North Carolina University professor Deborah Strumsky and Brookings Policy Director Mark Muro.

Rothwell said Phoenix was ranked No. 18 for the number of patents invented by residents in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

“The bad news for Phoenix is that its ranking is not as impressive when you consider how large the metropolitan area is,” Rothwell said.

Phoenix produced and developed many patents that have contributed to regional prosperity by bringing money to the local economy, Rothwell said.

Phoenix ranked No. 76 for the number of patents per worker that were used.

Rothwell said he and the other analysts found that research universities with strong science programs seem to develop more patents that help the economy.

“From that perspective, roughly two-thirds of all patenting come from a metropolitan area with a leading research university in the science field,” Rothwell said.

Lobo said the report demonstrates that patents matter in a region’s economic development and this depends on the area’s skilled labor force and institutions.

Lobo said Phoenix lacks a highly-skilled labor force and metro capital.

“Phoenix is not among the leaders in patenting, but it’s by no means in the bottom list either,” Lobo said. “We’re in the middle. Whether it’s good or bad, it depends on your view on how much we should be relying on inventions."

Stumsky helped contribute a patent database for the report’s research. Readers who view the report can access the data and the files used for the report online.

She said innovation and invention matters in the long term for a metropolitan area. It is something that cannot be done overnight and requires years to build and to keep it going, Stumsky said.

“Traditionally, Phoenix has gotten so much money though development growth construction sectors that the invention sector maybe didn’t receive the attention it deserved,” Stumsky said.

The city can develop a stronger inventions sector, because the construction side has gotten weaker, Stumsky said.

“It can work more at marketing those inventions and getting those inventions from the floor to the labs to the marketplace,” he said.

The Brookings report is free to the public and available online at the Brookings website.


Reach the reporter at or follow her @jackiecsolis


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