The best and worst states for science and technology – 24/7 Wall St.

Special report

The United States has long been ranked among the most innovative countries in the world. Innovations in many fields – from software development and finance to energy storage and biotechnology – can have profound effects on our daily lives.

Not only is innovation the main driver of economic growth, but some innovations, like the COVID-19 vaccine, have saved countless lives. Others, meanwhile, like the ongoing development of lithium-ion batteries, could prove key to reducing global carbon emissions.

The United States’ status as a global innovation hub is partly due to public funding of research and development. The federal government spent nearly $138 billion on R&D in 2020 alone. The private sector is also driving innovation, from Fortune 500 companies to small start-ups. Amazon, for example, spent more than $62 billion on R&D in fiscal year 2022. (Here’s a look at the most innovative companies in 2021.)

Several key indicators reveal that much of the innovation that takes place in the United States is concentrated in certain parts of the country. Using an innovation index created by personal finance website WalletHub in its report Most and least innovative states, 24/7 Wall St. listed the 50 states from least innovative to most. WalletHub’s index ranks states based on several indicative measures of innovation – including patents issued, venture capital funding, entrepreneurship and employment in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). We’ve added some of the data, such as STEM employment, venture capital investment, and patents granted, using different sources.

Many of the most innovative states are coastal, located along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. These locations are often distinguished by their high concentration of major research universities, in addition to being home to major employers in sectors ranging from defense to information technology. (Here’s a look at 30 inventions that shaped military history.)

Jobs in STEM fields in these states tend to pay more than STEM jobs in states that rank lower on this list. In each of the five least innovative states, for example, the average annual salary for STEM workers is less than $85,000, while in each of the five most innovative states, the average STEM salary exceeds $100,000.

Click here to see the best and worst states for science and technology.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

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