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High Tech Specialization: A Comparison of High Technology Centers

Heike Mayer and Joseph Cortright


A comparative analysis of 14 “high tech” metropolitan areas found that high technology varies dramatically from place to place. Different metropolitan areas tend to specialize in relatively few products or technologies. This specialization can be seen in three measures: employment concentration, patent activity, and venture capital flows.

  • In most high tech regions, high tech employment is concentrated in only a few industry segments. Metropolitan areas that show high concentrations of high tech employment in one technology, like software, will show very low concentrations in hardware (Washington D.C., Denver and Atlanta). Other regions show the opposite pattern: Phoenix is an employment center for hardware, but weak in software. 
  • The majority of the patents issued in any given metropolitan area are granted to only a handful of firms specializing in one or more related technologies. For example, San Jose, Phoenix, Portland and Austin show significant innovation in electronics or software technologies, and little activity in biomedical technologies. Washington D.C., Raleigh-Durham, San Diego, Boston and Seattle show significant innovation in biotechnology but produce fewer patents in electronics or software.
  • Venture capital flows not only to a few high tech metropolitan areas, but also to a specific set of technologies within those areas. Venture capital in Boston flowed more to software and biotechnology. In Denver, investments were channeled into communications and computer storage firms. In San Diego, venture capital investments went disproportionately to medical industries.

Download data sheets: (pdf files)

Salt Lake City
San Diego
San Jose
Washington, DC

Summary Profile Data (.xls)


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