Sunday, March 16th, 2008
I always take these weekly business magazine lists with a grain of salt, but publicity is always good. Forbes Magazine recently named Columbus, Ohio its number one up and coming tech city. What’s more, this list was produced by a professor at George Mason University, Philip Auerswald. According to the article:
‘The cities on this list aren’t the places you’d expect to be up-and-coming centers for the next generation of technologies,’ said Auerswald, ‘But 30 years ago, few would have imagined Las Vegas as the center of a real estate boom.’
Auerswald surveyed specific pockets of science–including advanced materials, nano-crystals and quantum dots, polymers and plastics, micro-systems and cell microbiology–that most experts consider today’s most promising frontiers of innovation.
Borrowing a method devised by Anthony Breitzman, a researcher at 1790 Analytics, an intellectual-property valuation firm, Auerswald then looked for important relationships among patents within each general technical area. The most important patents are generally referenced by other inventors in the field when they file for their own patents; lesser patents garner fewer citations. The greater the increase in the number of important patents in a given city, the higher it ranked on Auerswald’s list.
So the list appears to be driven off patents in technology that Aueswald believes are likely to be hot in the future. Looking at his list of tech areas, it is hard to argue too much with it. Using this methodology, Columbus came up number one. A key reason was the Battelle Memorial Institute, which oversees several labs for the Department of Energy, managing a $4 billion budget. Again, according to the article, “The institute has become a force in almost every area of emerging technology, especially life sciences and energy research. One of its children, Velocys, is working on a way to cut the cost of capturing the 3 trillion cubic feet of the world’s stranded natural gas by converting it to easily transportable liquid.”
Fellow Midwest metro Milwaukee was number five on the list and Pittsburgh number six. From what I saw of it, it certainly helped to have some official US government sponsored lab in your area.
All is not well in Columbus, however. As a bonus follow-up on a story I previously mentioned about financial troubles at the Columbus Symphony, it now appears that the orchestra may cease trading entirely in April. Here is more coverage. I’ve seen these sagas play out enough times that I’m doubtful the orchestra would go under completely. The corporate base of the town realizes that would be a black eye for the city. It would be tough to be city without an orchestra and tout the quality of life there. But as this is mostly a checkbox item for most people, the actual artistic quality need not be that high. Hence the desire to radically downsize the orchestra. The monkey wrench is the musicians, at least some of whom have said they’d rather see the orchestra go out of business that accept cuts.