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Lehigh Valley Economy in U.S. Top 20% for Patents and Innovation

By Colin McEvoy on January 19, 2016

An Air Products technician runs tests at the company's hydrogen reactions lab in Allentown. Air Products was among the Lehigh Valley companies with the most patents awarded between 2010 and 2013. (Photo by Mike Danese, courtesy Air Products)

An Air Products technician runs tests at the company’s hydrogen reactions lab in Allentown. Air Products was among the Lehigh Valley companies with the most patents awarded between 2010 and 2013. (Photo by Mike Danese, courtesy Air Products)

The Lehigh Valley continues its recent run of ranking high in the nation in key areas of economic development, ranking in the top 65 metropolitan markets in the nation for patent development, a key measure of an innovative economy.

The Lehigh Valley ranks even higher when compared to markets its own size, coming in at 21st in United States metropolitan regions with a population of 200,000 to 1 million people.

“We often think of the Lehigh Valley’s economic history as that of manufacturing and industrial development, but the reality is that the Lehigh Valley has a long history of innovation and entrepreneurship that continues today,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “These patent rankings show that the region is in the top 65 in innovation of all the markets in the United States.”

The Lehigh Valley was awarded 1,348 patents between 2010 and 2013, according to federal data, compiled and analyzed by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

The Lehigh Valley ranks 21st out of 163 similarly-sized regions for patents awarded. Click the image above to enlarge.

The Lehigh Valley ranks 21st out of 163 similarly-sized regions for patents awarded. Click the image above to enlarge.

The Lehigh Valley ranks 61st out of 358 metropolitan statistical areas of any population size in the U.S., according to the analysis. Silicon Valley leads the list with 44,746 patents, followed by New York City with 30,562.

“This analysis shows that when compared to regions of its own size, the Lehigh Valley is in the top 13 percent in the nation,” Cunningham said. “Even when compared against every metropolitan market in the U.S., the Lehigh Valley is in the top 17 percent.”

No other similarly-sized region in Pennsylvania ranks higher than the Lehigh Valley in terms of patents awarded, according to the LVEDC analysis. The closest is Harrisburg-Carlisle, which ranked 45th, whose 537 patents were 811 less than the Lehigh Valley.

When compared against all population sizes in Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley was awarded the third most patents in the state, behind only the much larger Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington (9,095) and Pittsburgh (3,122).

Site Selection magazine previously ranked the Lehigh Valley the top-performing region for economic development in the Northeast U.S. The magazine has ranked the Lehigh Valley in the Top 10 of best-performing metropolitan areas for seven consecutive years, making it one of only two regions to earn that distinction.

Additionally, previous LVEDC analyses have found the Lehigh Valley has the most balanced and diversified economy in Pennsylvania, as well as the best post-recession job growth of any major Pennsylvania region.

The Lehigh Valley has long been a bastion of innovation.  From the Bethlehem Moravians building the first waterworks of the American colonies, to Lutron founder Joel Spira inventing the electronic dimmer switch in the 1950s, the region has been a home to innovation and innovators.

Air Products received 190 of the 1,348 patents awarded in the Lehigh Valley between 2010 and 2013, including 78 in the year 2010 alone. The company regularly applies for patients as part of its ongoing research and development projects, according to Mark Rodgers, Air Products chief patent counselor.

“We have people who work very hard to develop proprietary technologies for Air Products that improve not only our own operations, but also our customers’ operations,” Rodgers said. “This work has made Air Products a leader in numerous industrial gas processes and various market applications around the world.”

In terms of Lehigh Valley companies, the largest amount of patents awarded came from the combined grouping of Agere Systems, LSI Corporation and Avago Technologies. Agere merged in 2007 with LSI, which was acquired by Avago in 2014. Between 2010 and 2013, the companies accounted for 190 patents.

Lutron Electronics Company accounted for 102 patents between 2010 and 2013, according to LVEDC’s analysis, and the LSI Corporation were for 63. Not all patents came from companies: a total of 123 individually-owned patents were awarded in that time period.

The analysis was conducted by John Lamirand, LVEDC’s research specialist, based on information from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is the agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that issues patents to individuals and businesses for their inventions. 2013 was the most recent year for which statistical data was available.

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11% of Labor Force
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