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Creativity and the City

January 31st 2014

In making his comment Rohan Silva drew on US research which showed that technology patents are disproportionately created in a small number of urban areas, and even in the best-known technology cluster, the centre of gravity is rapidly shifting from the leafy suburbs of Silicon Valley to the city of San Francisco.  In the UK this may well also be true and locations like London’s Tech City have proven growth – 3,000 companies supporting 5,000 jobs in under five years.

However, dig deeper and the evidence for innovation is harder to read.  Carpmaels and Ransford, a UK law firm which is active in Tech City, has published work which shows that the number of patents applied for – often cited as an effective guide to valuable intellectual property – has not grown at all for Silicon Roundabout post codes and may even be falling.  Of course, the great majority of social app or media start ups don’t have patents but intellectual property is often the key to sustained value.

The fact is that just as no one has a monopoly on good ideas, no environment can purport to be the only place where creativity thrives.  Some university campuses are stars, many are not.  Some cities are leading centres, many are not. 

So where’s the best place on the planet for producing patents? Go to Eindhoven in the Netherlands– over 22 patents per year per 10,000 residents.  San Diego is next at 8.  London is not even in the top 15.

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