A new report by Go.Verizon.com rates Akron and its surrounding communities among the top 50 U.S. places for innovation — the only Ohio metropolitan area to make the list.
Akron ranked 43rd in the report, which identified top performers by the number of patents issued per 10,000 residents. Population data were drawn from 2015 U.S. Census Bureau data (the most recent year for which statistics are available), and patents considered were granted from 2000 to 2015 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
In defining innovation, the report noted that "patents are a good place to start, as patented technology is typically a fair indicator of new and exciting advancements in many different fields."
Three of the top 10 metro areas are in California, with the Silicon Valley hotbed of San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara not surprisingly ranking No. 1. The most popular patent types there were "multiplex communications" — essentially cellphone and radio innovations — with 8,518 patents issued, followed by "semiconductor device manufacturing: process" with 7,246 patents. A total of 143,473 patents were issued in the Silicon Valley in the period surveyed.
San Jose is home to eBay, which last year selected Akron for the launch of two first-of-their-kind programs —Retail Revival, to foster innovation among bricks-and-mortar small businesses, and eBay@Home for home-based employees of the online sales giant.
The Midwest boasts nearly a third of the top performers, with 15 other metro areas joining Akron. Cities appearing on the list tended to be in close proximity to one or more large universities.
Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin had three metro areas each on the list; there were two each for Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa. Midwestern states that did not make the list were North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas.
The top Midwestern finishers were Rochester, Minnesota, at No. 7 and Ann Arbor, Michigan, at No. 9. The report noted that Ann Arbor "channels some of the energy" that the automobile industry generates in nearby Detroit (No. 38). Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, has become an important player in testing electric and autonomous vehicles — and the Akron-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is a key collaborator in the university's Mcity experiment site.
The list shows cities that boomed with the automotive industry in the 20th century continue to crank out work toward new technological frontiers despite their Rust Belt struggles.
Business, educational, foundation and community collaboration with the city of Akron have led to the opening of a MAGNET office to showcase manufacturing and the launch of the Bounce Innovation Hub within the last year. Entrepreneurial pitch competitions and other efforts steered by local partners such as the Greater Akron Chamber, the Downtown Akron Partnership and the Development Finance Authority have focused on maintaining the area's legacy as a catalyst for technological advancement.
The report summarized the top 50 as "fostering a spirit of innovation and success, leading to homegrown talent. Without the spirit of innovation, businesses can’t thrive and flourish."
“We all know innovation can’t be forced,” said Mike Riley, content strategist for Go.Verizon.com.