This one is perhaps more traditional clustering than superstar effect, but overlaps with the same cities and places. Richard Florida just had a writeup in City Lab about the clustering of R&D Laboratories.
For one, R&D labs, like much of leading edge knowledge-based economic activity in America, are highly concentrated along the two coasts. About a third of all labs (1,035) are located in the Boston-New York-Washington, D.C. Corridor compared to less than a fifth of population and jobs; another quarter of labs (645) are located in California, compared to about 10 percent of population and employment.
R&D labs form tight geographic clusters across these two bi-coastal centers. The study finds that the clustering of R&D labs is greater than the clustering of manufacturing facilities and even more significantly concentrated than the locations of top scientific and technological talent. The location of labs does not just follow this talent, it is more concentrated than talent is. [emphasis added]
This piece of data fits in with the overall pattern of clustering of higher end businesses. There are multiple, overlapping layers of concentration that supply competitive advantage. As Florida puts it:
Every phase of the knowledge economy, from the inception of a new idea, to the financing and growth of new companies, is likely to occur in just a handful of American metros, and just a handful of neighborhoods therein. This study of R&D labs provides another layer of evidence that the knowledge economy is clustered, concentrated and spiky, within as well as across cities and metros areas.
Now, this is true within the current economic schema. As we know from history, economies are dynamic. So these factors are not destiny. There are also many ways to make money besides super high end innovation. Nevertheless, this is an interesting and revealing piece of information about America’s innovation hubs.