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Tennessee ranks near the bottom in this report on most innovative states

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Because of intellectual assets across the Volunteer State, Tennesseans frequently think that our ranking as a technology hotspot should be high. After all, from east to west, we have nationally-recognized research entities including: (1) the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, the state’s public flagship; (2) Oak Ridge National Laboratory; (3) Vanderbilt University; and (4) St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

That fact, however, is not the case, according to a recent report produced by 24/7 Wall St. The rankings of the most and least innovative states were based on a weighted index of 22 measures, indicative of innovative capacity, created by personal finance website, WalletHub, which published a report, “Most & Least Innovative States,” along with additional “supplementary measures.” A full description of each Wallet Hub measure and its weighting is available here. The additional datapoints included:

  • Employment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, both overall and as a percentage of overall employment as well as the average annual wage in STEM fields based on Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2021, the most recent period;
  • Total venture capital (VC) investment and the total number of venture capital deals by state in 2021 from the National Venture Capital Association; and
  • Data on total patents issued in 2020 by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office with the per capita patent figures adjusted using one-year population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2021 American Community Survey.

So, where did Tennessee rank? It was #40 out of the 50 states, ahead of Southeastern states Kentucky (#42), Arkansas (#46), West Virginia (#47), Louisiana (#49), and Mississippi (#50). The Volunteer State ranked lower than neighbors like Alabama (#34), South Carolina (#31), Georgia (#25), North Carolina (#18), Florida (#17), and Virginia (#5).

What state was ranked at the top? It was Massachusetts.

What were Tennessee’s scores?

  • Innovation index score: 33.3 out of 100;
  • Employment in STEM fields: 5.1 percent of all workers which ranked 14th lowest (151,010 people total);
  • Average annual income in STEM jobs: $82,960 (13th lowest);
  • VC investments in 2021: $1.0 billion (25th highest with 124 VC deals total); and
  • Patents issued in 2020: 21.4 per 100,000 people, 14th fewest with 1,494 total.

The full report and data on each state can be found here.

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