Minnesota remains one of the top centers for innovation in the United States, as judged by the number of patents issued in the state.
Companies in the Twin Cities and Rochester generated a disproportionately high number of new patents in the past five years, according to data put together by the Brookings Institution.
The Twin Cities had the ninth-highest number of patents issued in any metropolitan area in America, an average of 3,068 per year between 2007 and 2011. The top patent-creating companies in the metro area were Boston Scientific, 3M, Medtronic, Honeywell and Seagate Technology.
“A strong regional economy needs to be continually innovating if it’s going to remain strong,” said Tom Stinson, Minnesota’s state economist. “One indication of the fact that we’re doing that is the number of patents.”
Stinson noted that 3M and the medical device industry have been getting high numbers of patents for decades.
Rochester, thanks mostly to the presence of IBM, had the third-highest number of patents issued per capita in the country, behind only San Jose, Calif., the home of Silicon Valley, and Burlington, Vt., which also has a big IBM operation.
Patent creation has increased nationwide since the mid-1980s, especially in large cities. About 92 percent of patents are issued in 100 metro areas, where 59 percent of the population lives, according to the Brookings report. Patent figures are not a perfect measure of innovation, but the report analyzed the relationship between patents and economic productivity from 1980 to 2010 and found a strong correlation.
“Inventions, embodied in patents, are a major driver of long-term regional economic performance,” the authors wrote. “The results clearly show that patenting is associated with higher metropolitan area productivity.”
High-patenting regions of the country enjoyed a 6.5 percent advantage in economic growth per decade over low-patenting regions, the report said.
When it comes to patents issued per capita, only four of the top 20 metro areas were in the Midwest. Rochester was third; Ann Arbor, Mich., was seventh; Sheboygan, Wis., was 16th; and the Twin Cities was 20th.