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July 28, 2014

Indicators Shed Light on Chicago Region’s Innovation Economy

The transformation of ideas and research into new products, technologies, and processes drives economic growth and often leads to increased productivity.  Nowhere is innovation more prevalent than in global metropolitan areas, which allow ideas to be shared quickly among large groups of thinkers and business leaders.  A series of innovation measures are now available on CMAP's regional economic indicators microsite, which launched on July 7, 2014.  The site also contains data and analysis on the region's broad economic trends, its workforce, and its freight and manufacturing clusters.  Innovation indicators include venture capital activity, private-sector research and development (R&D) employment, technology transfer, and patent production.

Over the last decade, businesses and individuals in the Chicago region were awarded over 25,000 patents -- the fourth highest for all metropolitan areas in the U.S.  Despite strong patent activity, data show that the State of Illinois and Chicago region lag behind peer regions in terms of venture capital deal making, with Illinois contributing only 2.3 percent of all U.S. deals in 2013.  Technology transfer metrics, which measure the ability of the region's academic institutions to patent and commercialize university research, have been mixed over the last decade.  The region's institutions are securing an increasing number of patents, but trends show that they are failing to license these innovations to businesses.

The microsite's data can help economic development professionals, planners, and others identify regional challenges related to innovation.  For instance, the Chicago region has lost 42 percent of its private sector R&D jobs from 2002-12.  This downward trend stands in stark contrast to peer regions such as Los Angeles and Boston, where R&D employment is on the rise.  Nationwide, private sector R&D employment grew 19 percent over the same time period. 


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The release of innovation indicators concludes CMAP's regional economic indicators microsite rollout.  Throughout the year, CMAP will post Policy Updates using these and related indicators to provide more in-depth analysis on various phenomena affecting the region's economic performance. The microsite's indicators will be updated annually as data become available.