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Innovation, patenting fuels economy

aerial image of downtown Phoenix, Arizona with flying airplane
February 01, 2013

Brookings Institution Report lists Phoenix among top 20 for patenting; ties Tucson patents to lower unemployment rate

Despite economic unease, the U.S. patenting rate is higher than ever since the Industrial Revolution, according to a new report issued by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, in collaboration with Arizona State University.

According to a previous Brookings Institution report, Phoenix, the sixth largest city in the United States, ranks 18th out of 358 surveyed metro areas for patenting from 2007 to 2011. In the new report, Tucson placed in the top 10 cities with high patent growth and low unemployment rates. The report suggests patent rates are higher in metropolitan areas because they offer knowledge sharing, employment and research-based universities – prime environments for inventors.

José Lobo, a sustainability scientist at ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and associate research professor at ASU’s School of Sustainability, co-authored the report, “Patenting Prosperity: Invention and Economic Performance in the United States and its Metropolitan Areas.” The report is the first of its kind to analyze patenting trends from 1980 to 2012 on a regional level. The authors compared patent levels to other sources of economic stimuli, such as education, to determine impact.

“A truly sustainable economy – meaning an economy that is in sync with the community, the people, the environment, and the global marketplace – depends on sustainable methods and products that give more than they take,” says Lobo. “The quality of patents in an area influences how well an economy produces and also how well those inventing new technologies are being utilized in the workforce.” 

Although the patent system itself is a point of contention, those cities that saw high patent levels within the last 30 years also yielded the largest increase in gross domestic product per worker. Patent growth tends to intensify competition among industries. To keep industries in line, the authors suggest targeted reforms to protect startups and prevent patent abuse. Authors of the Brookings report recommend streamlining existing programs and increasing federal support of innovation to improve the patenting process.

Co-authors of the report include Jonathan Rothwell, Brookings associate fellow; Mark Muro, Brookings senior fellow; and Deborah Strumsky, assistant professor, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

For the full report, visit

Media Contact:
Tara Mogan,
Senior Manager, Strategic Marketing and Communications
Global Institute of Sustainability, ASU
(480) 727-9447