May 6, 2024 - Business

New Orleans emerges as one of country's innovation hotspots

Map of U.S. metro areas showing change in the number of utility patents granted per capita from 2012 to 2022. Cities in the South and Midwest saw more growth than cities in the Northeast or California. Overall, there were 11% more patents per capita in 2022 compared to 2012. In New Orleans, the number of patents per capita increased by +105%
Data: National Science Foundation; Note: Patents identified by location of inventors; Excludes metros with fewer than 50 patents in 2022; A bigger bubble indicates greater change; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

New Orleans is emerging as one of America's new innovation hotspots, as measured by the change in utility patents granted over time.

Why it matters: While Silicon Valley still holds the title for most patents awarded overall, the rate of change over time offers a compelling look at newly ascending — or lagging — areas.

The big picture: Utility patents may be granted for inventing or discovering a new and useful process, machine or composition of matter, among other things.

By the numbers: 11.4 utility patents per 100,000 residents were granted in the New Orleans-metro area in 2022 — up 103.6% from 2012, according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data.

  • The Fayetteville, Arkansas-metro area, which is home to Walmart headquarters, had the most growth in patents, followed by Louisville, Kentucky. New Orleans was third.
  • Nationally, growth per 100,000 residents in 2022 was up 11% from 2012.
Image is three photos of military members training with guns.
Haptech makes tools that allow for training on screens, with virtual reality or in live situations. Images: Courtesy of Haptech.

Case in point: Haptech Inc. is a New Orleans-based company with 77 patents and 11 more pending, the company says.

  • Since July, Haptech has been awarded more than $11 million in contracts to develop and deliver weapon simulators for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps.
  • Its tools allow military members to train without using live rounds.
  • The company was founded in 2014 and has its headquarters near the National WWII Museum. It has 20 employees with plans to add 10 more this year, according to a statement.

Zoom in: Most of New Orleans' new patents were categorized under civil engineering, handling or transportation.

  • Medical and computer technology and special machines were also popular patent categories.

Yes, but: In terms of raw numbers, the San Jose and San Francisco metros blew the rest of the country out of the water, with 14,089 and 11,346 patents granted in 2022, respectively.

  • New York took third place, at 6,979.

Caveat: Getting a patent is one thing. Actually creating the proposed product or service is another.

  • That said, the number of patents granted is still a useful proxy for measuring something as quantitatively slippery as "innovation."

What's next: Expect other potentially surprising innovation hubs to emerge over the next few years, as money from laws like the CHIPS Act and private investment funds new semiconductor plants and other high-tech projects nationwide.

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