Apr 1, 2024 - News

Patents put Northwest Arkansas on innovation map

Change in utility patents granted per capita
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

Northwest Arkansas is emerging as one of America's new innovation hot spots, measured by the change in utility patents granted over time per 100,000 residents.

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

  • Utility patents can be granted for inventing or discovering a new and useful process, machine or composition of matter, among other things.

By the numbers: The NWA metro had 24.9 patents granted for every 100,000 residents in 2022, up from 10.2 in 2012 — a 144.1% increase, per U.S. Patent and Trademark Office data.

  • Nationally, 42.5 patents were granted for every 100,000 residents in 2022, up from 38.4 in 2012 (+11%).
  • Louisville, Kentucky — along with New Orleans — also are emerging as patent-savvy markets.

Zoom in: Northwest Arkansas' patent boom comes alongside broader growth for the region, which is home to Walmart headquarters.

The big picture: "U.S. patenting and trademark activities are concentrated in certain areas of the country, with the highest rates on the East Coast and West Coast, around the Great Lakes, and in parts of the Southwest," per a February report from the National Science Foundation.

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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