The Innovation Hubs Index gives communities data-driven metrics to help them better understand their strengths and weaknesses.
To help officials decide where to locate the 20 innovation hubs proposed in the CHIPS Act, a new report analyzes data on metro areas’ economic need and innovation potential to determine which cities might best benefit from a hub.
The Innovation Hub Index aims to provide federal officials data-driven guidance on determining the location of the hubs, the Economic Innovation Group said in an announcement, but the index has uses for state and local government officials too.
EIG examined demographic and economic data from sources such as the American Community Survey, the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Metrics included a region’s STEM-trained individuals, existing industrial bases and distance to “superstar” metro areas, EIG Research Director Kenan Fikri said in an interview. Other factors include local cost of living and existing private-sector activity that could commercialize the technology produced by a CHIPS-funded hub, he said.
The index gives localities “a fresh set of metrics and perspectives on what’s being underutilized globally or what the real strengths are … and how that stacks up relative to others,” Fikri said.
A balance of these features may help federal officials narrow their selection, but state and local governments can use EIG’s index and datasets to inform their own development plans, EIG Associate Economist Eric Carlson told GCN.
For instance, one factor the index considers is brain drain, which Carlson defined as a metro area that produces plenty of college-educated individuals but has no tech-based labor market to employ them. Using the index, local governments can determine if they experience brain drain, encourage industries that can take advantage of a young, educated workforce and devise regional or statewide strategies to make sure those people stick around, Fikri said. Also, the index can help companies find ideal locations for their business.
Smaller governments can use the index to find municipal partners in high-scoring metro areas so they can “jointly work on these applications,” Carlson said. They can leverage EIG’s data to “make the case back to the federal government: ‘These are the goals that Congress set out when they designed this program … and here’s how investing in us is helping ensure that the country is at the frontier of new technologies and new industries,’” Fikri said.
The data could even come in handy for future federal funding, as the CHIPS Act signals Congress’ serious bipartisan commitments to place-based policies to help economically build up areas that already have strong foundations, Fikri said.
The Innovation Hub Index spotlights the top five metro areas in each of the six Economic Development Administration’s regions that, according to the EIG’s analysis, have the highest innovation potential and need for economic development. Top contenders include: Greenville, South Carolina; Provo, Utah; Tucson, Arizona; Toledo, Ohio, and Greensboro, North Carolina.
The CHIPS and Science Act aims to rejuvenate the country’s scientific and technology sectors while giving economic support to nontraditional areas for tech investment, such as the Midwest. Under the act, 20 metro regions will split $10 billion over four years to support the domestic manufacturing of semiconductor chips and advance other technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum computing.
The legislation’s goal is to put the country on the same playing field as foreign competitors, such as China, who have recently outperformed the U.S. in research and development. By supporting domestic chip manufacturing, the federal government also hopes to reduce the country’s reliance on international supply chains, which may leave the U.S. vulnerable to foreign influence.