The 11 Most Innovative Cities in the U.S.

Whether you’re in a tech-focused major or just want to live at the cutting edge of things, there are several cities around the nation priding themselves on being hubs of innovation. Many offer science and tech-related jobs, research opportunities and access to lots of start-up businesses — perfect for new college graduates. Here are some of those high-tech, innovative Meccas, from standards like Silicon Valley to surprising additions like Minneapolis.

  1. San Jose, CA: This Silicon Valley city dominates when it comes to innovation, drawing in big businesses like HP, Cisco Systems and IBM, and loads of new start-ups alike. Just east and south of the city, respectively, lay the major headquarters for tech giants Google and Apple, as well as a host of other big names in the technology industry. According to a Forbes study, San Jose ranks number one in the number of tech, science and creative jobs, patents and venture investment. In fact, 35% of all venture capital funds are investments in companies located in San Jose. For those looking to start up a company or enter a technology or innovation-related field, few destinations can match it.
  2. Austin, TX: When you think innovation, Texas probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind, but one particular city may just change that. Austin ranks 5th in the nation for the number of tech and science jobs it offers, producing a huge number of patents each year, second only to San Jose. What produces all this innovation? Big names in technology-related business, of course. Companies like IBM, Dell, Apple, Samsung 3M all have major offices in the Austin area. Additionally, the city is home to some major business in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology as well as a well-regarded university, The University of Texas (ranked as 45th best in the nation). Students who are looking to work in tech and science, but don’t want to deal with high housing costs in CA, should consider Austin a great alternative.
  3. Raleigh, NC: The “City of Oaks” is about much more than majestic trees these days. Home to three major research universities (NC State University, Duke University, and UNC-Chapel-Hill) and ranking 4th in tech and science jobs, 4th in patents per capita and 5th venture investment, this small city has become a hub of innovation as well. Much of the economy in the area is based around research and development, with major businesses in biotech, technology, textiles and telecommunications call it home. With fast growth, a great business climate and commitment to sustainable technology, Raleigh can be a great destination for new college grads looking to get started in an innovative industry.
  4. San Francisco, CA: San Francisco’s proximity to Silicon Valley gives it an almost unfair advantage in ranking it in innovation. This city, perhaps more famous for its trolleys, hills, bridge and diverse makeup than industrial progress, ranks sixth in the nation in the number of technology and science jobs it offers. Those who want to strike out on their own will also find innovative opportunities in the city, seeing as how it ranks 2nd in the nation in venture capital investment. San Francisco is home to a number of top financial institutions, several Fortune 500 companies, some big names in the web world like Twitter, Craigslist and Wikimedia and a large number of biotechnology and biomedical research centers. Like many other innovative cities, the proximity to a great university doesn’t hurt, either, and many researchers live and work on the UCSF campus after graduation.
  5. Seattle, WA: Seattle isn’t just a pretty face, though its epic mountain vistas and winding shorelines certainly don’t hurt its desirability. Students who are looking for a great innovation city shouldn’t shy away from this Northwestern hub as it offers some great opportunities in the science, technology and creative fields ranking ninth and fourth in the nation respectively. The city has been a leader in green technology, building and energy for the past decade. It also boasts leaders in innovation like Amazon, Microsoft, and Nintendo as well as biotech industries like Corixa and Immunex. The city itself may be an inspiration to many students, as it has been ranked the number one Smart City for its efforts to make the everything greener and more sustainable.
  6. Washington, DC: With the new president committed to green energy, innovative inventions and modernizing the grid for most of America, science and technology jobs are booming in Washington DC. Named a nexus city by innovation analysts think2now, it is only one of five in the U.S. to hold this distinction. The reason is largely related to governmental proximity. Businesses in defense, industry and technology headquarter here to be close to federal government – and the money and business it has to offer. Depending on the type of innovation business you’re planning on entering, this global player may be just what you need to jumpstart your career.
  7. Madison, WI: You might not think of this sleepy college town when you think of innovation, but it may just be the place for students interested in technology and science research to head. The hub of Madison revolves around the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is one of the city’s main employers and a top-notch educator in a wide range of innovation-focused fields. The city has the highest percentage of individuals holding a PhD of anywhere in the United States, which has helped to draw in new technology businesses. While not high on venture capital, Madison ranks high for tech, science and creative jobs (third and fifth in the nation, respectively) as well as the number of patents produced per capita.
  8. Boston, MA: According to global innovation rankings, Boston tops the list, meaning new industries are opening up there and the city is fostering growth. In the United States, Boston ranks third in the number of venture capital investments, seventh in tech and science jobs, and sixth in creative jobs. Home to several research universities, Boston boasts a highly educated population and some of the best medical training facilities in the world. The economy of Boston is based around research, electronics, engineering and biotechnology, but college grads will also find it friendly to start-ups – especially those in green technology.
  9. Portland, OR: While relatively small in size, this Pacific Northwest city doesn’t slouch, being named as one of 14 of America’s hub cities for innovation. Anyone who has visited Portland has undoubtedly noted the city’s commitment to sustainable and green initiatives, making it a great destination for any students looking to work in such technologies. In recent years, the city has worked to develop an “innovation quadrant” helping to bridge the gap between higher education, business and government and drive progress in the city. Today, the metro Portland area is home to over 1,200 technology companies, leading to the city being called “Silicon Forest.” While 27th in tech and science jobs, the city ranks 10th in patents per capita, making it an ideal destination for inventors and innovators.
  10. Provo, UT: Wide open and often very Mormon, Utah might not seem like the first choice for a hub of innovation, yet the city boasts an amazing amount of science, technology and creative jobs. In fact, if you’re going into a creative field, this Western city could be an amazing place to start out, ranking 2nd in the nation in the number of creative jobs per capita. Oddly enough, however, this city just south of Salt Lake City is home to a number of technology and innovation businesses including Novell, Ancestry.com and Heritage Web Solutions. Grads heading out to Utah will also find major film and video production companies as well as work in public relations and media.
  11. Minneapolis, MN: Forbes ranks this innovative city as 12th in the nation, with loads of tech, science and creative jobs and a fair amount of venture capital investment. Minneapolis has the densest population of Fortune 500 companies of any city in the nation, so it’s no surprise that it draws in big research and technology names. Ranked as the number one “Top Tech City” by Popular Science, Minneapolis has widely available Wi-Fi, green technology and transportation, university research and lots of opportunity for new start-up ventures. Additionally, almost 4,000 tech companies call the city home, offering lots of job opportunities for those who want to get into innovation.

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