High-Tech Innovation: Some ‘Unlikely’ US Cities Starting to Compete with Silicon Valley

By April 24, 2013

Now that access to modern information and communication technologies has become more widespread, the United States is seeing a significant high-tech migration from the traditional innovation hubs to what might seem rather unexpected locations.

When people think of high-tech innovation and startups, there are a handful of cities that spring to mind, including San Francisco, New York, London and Tel Aviv. These days however, access to cloud-based resources and sophisticated communication tools has become easier and cheaper so a firm does not necessarily have to base itself in Silicon Valley to achieve success in the IT sector. Techie.com, a website specialising in technology and innovation, asked innovators, entrepreneurs and city leaders which cities in the United States they believe are now leading the tech revolution through their capacity to provide excellent infrastructure and foster the creation of promising startups.

Upgrading infrastructure to encourage innovation

A number of US cities have played their cards well by concentrating on upgrading their infrastructure as a way of attracting major companies. A notable example is Cincinnati, Ohio, which has an excellent transportation system, a world-class airport, plus an extremely positive business climate. These factors persuaded Toyota to set up its North American plant there. Chattanooga, Tennessee has focused on developing a high-speed Internet service of up to one gigabit/second – 200 times faster than the average broadband speed in the United States – as a means of fostering innovation. The main drawcard of South Bend, Indiana is Ignition Park, a true technopolis which the city has created with a view to becoming one of the world’s ‘big data’ analytics hubs. However, infrastructure isn’t the only key factor for innovation and former ‘motor city’ Detroit, Michigan has recently “embraced a Silicon valley-esque startup culture,” says Techie.com, which has encouraged investors to inject substantial capital into the development of high-tech companies there.

Offering first-rate tools to young entrepreneurs

A number of other US cities looking to foster innovation have opted to focus on developing young entrepreneurs – starting with education. The Portland, Maine authorities are trying hard to re-vamp the image of their state as an innovative place to be. They have set up the ‘Top Gun’ programme at the Maine Centre for Entrepreneurial Development (MCED), whose purpose is to help programme participants to set up their own businesses. Around half of those completing the course go on to set up their own high-tech firm. In the same vein, Des Moines, Iowa, is home to a number of business incubators that are cultivating new high-tech growth, which brought the city the number one ranking among the ‘Best Cities for Young Professionals’ awarded by Forbes Magazine. Treading a similar path, Rochester, New York was recently ranked fifth for patents per capita by Forbes, rivalling San Francisco and San Diego. Also on the Techie.com list of ‘most unexpected cities’ for high-tech innovation, New Orleans, Louisiana boasts world-class universities and offers tax incentives for digital media production.

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