Where In The World Is Innovation


This Innovation Heat Map crafted by McKinsey and the World Economic Forum maps innovation across the planet. Clearly Silicon Valley is in a class of its own and perhaps that is why others want to imitate its success. Paul Graham recently offered up a recipe to replicate Silicon Valley, but even with that I am not sure anyone can pull it off. Why? Because, there are so many intangibles that cannot be quantified and replicated outside of Silicon Valley.

Nowhere else on the planet you will find a grown man who is crazy enough to fund a web site that essentially shows cat videos and expects his investment to pay off big time. YouTube, anyone!? Nowhere but in Silicon Valley is it OK to fail. More importantly, nowhere on the planet can you actually find a place to think as “freely” as Silicon Valley. I speak from personal experience, and you might disagree. I think Silicon Valley is un-replicable.


Sramana Mitra

Shouldn’t we be asking the question, What have we learn’t in Silicon Valley, and how other innovation centers can learn from that experience?

Roshan Shrestha

Why do you say “Clearly Silicon Valley is in a class of its own”? Clearly, Tokyo is right behind it, and remember, we are talking about US patents here. If we combine Global patents, Tokyo may very well lead.

Shashi Kiran

It is a new world order in 2009. This heat map looks archaeic with rules of 2005-06 being no longer applicable in these turbulent economic times. IMO, not a true representation of innovation even in 2006 due to the points raised by Scoble, Jacob and others.

Dave Peterson

Agree with the methodological concerns re correlating patents with innovation. It’s a bit like the academia equivalent of measuring numbers of papers published as a (flawed) proxy for research output / impact.

A better measure might be a financial metric, e.g. sales revenue from start-up companies over the last 10 years (annualised), divided by either (1) number of startups or (2) population ?

Ronald Gruia

Om – to your point, the Japanese tried to do what they do best: copy and improve… they tried the Technopolis concept (I remember studying that in the late 80’s in my Innovation class w/ Eric VonHippel – The Sources of Innovation) but it failed. There are a few things about Silicon Valley that remain intrinsic to the area and IMHO cannot be carried over to another region of the world.


I have to agree with DM. Is the graph really a realistic view of what is occuring at this moment if it was created a few years ago? Silicon Valley seems to be breaking apart, so maybe the circle is scattered to different locations in the U.S.

I also have to agree with Jacob. Where is India?

Subbaraman Iyer

I am surprised at the omissions: Korea, Finland and even China being one of the notable exceptions. This report contradicts another report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation which found that the U.S. was ranked sixth based on their indicators.

I have always been skeptical about these rankings because there is always a risk of co-relationships often being mistaken for causality.

And on a more operational note, with global collaboration and work being distributed to various talent spots, how is it possible to identify the exact nature of contribution as it relates to innovation from each location.


you mean a system which includes Software Patents, it’s ok to compare it to other Patent systems which do not?
More is more, even if we compare BS to innovations?
Any other country has as many Patent trolls as the US?

Robert Scoble

One thing about this graph: San Francisco and Silicon Valley should have been combined together. Then it would have been even more apparent how important this region of the world is to innovation. In my mind they are the same thing, the fact that they aren’t combined in this graph is a major mistake.

Om Malik

@Robert Scoble
That is a good point. Of course it is McKinsey so you know more-is-more philosophy is at work.


SV rocks inspite of the oppressive California business regime…what if the state really did become more conducive to business?

Elad Kehat

To add to Wille’s comment above, not only is the number of US patents not a good measure of innovation, it most definitely isn’t a good measure of innovation of the kind that Om is referring to (“website that essentially shows cat videos” – and isn’t that i can has cheeseburger rather than youtube?)

William Mougayar

Om, Agreed 100% with your observation.
Culture is not transposable or transportable, and you can’t display that on a MAP! It’s engrained over many decades and years of perpetuation. The SV Culture is unique in the world. It’s the battery that charges everything else. When I come back from a trip there, I’m always more energized than before.


Although I would agree that Silicon Valley is in a league of its own, I’m not sure the graph is the best representation of this: is the number of US patents really a good measure considering the nonsensical nature of a lot of patents?


The “innovation” is measured in US patent applications. No surprise, the international counterparts have far lower representation in comparison to Silicon Valley.
I am pretty sure that taking UK, German, or EU patents in considerations will do wonders for London, Munich, and Stuttgart (BMW, Bosch, Siemens, Porsche are prolific patent applicants in Germany). I am not sure about the patent situation in Asia, but in Europe, the local patents are expensive enough to apply for.
I doubt the mentioned areas will come close to the Valley numbers, but it will make a difference, nonetheless.

Thomas B

Clearly this is about right, but is this based on US patents ? Seems you´ll miss a lot of innovation abroad then.


Interesting, but this diagram is 3 years old(from 2006).

What’s more, the diagram is based on the patents granted in 2006, which means it’s *actually* measuring patents that were filed two or three years earlier(2003 or 2004).

In reality, this diagram is measuring the level of innovation from 4 or 5 years ago.

It would be interesting to construct the diagram with 2008 patent filing data. We would get a better picture of recent innovation, assuming that IP creation equates to innovation.

Jane Sales

Experience has taught me that this is not true with mobile. Last year I found finance for my iPhone startup from two British investors, not from the Valley. Perhaps things are changing now, but a year ago you were better off in London or Cambridge (UK) than Redwood City.

Robert Scoble

In the past few years I’ve traveled the world. I’m having a tougher and tougher time telling where the Valley ends anymore. I find the same kind of innovation in Tel Aviv, Shenzhen, Barcelona, Vancouver that I find in San Francisco (which technically is not in the valley). I just find less of it and less of a culture of people who know what Twitter is (or, I guess, a better example now that Twitter is on the BBC, would be friendfeed). Here we celebrate new companies and new ideas. That rarely happens elsewhere in the world. It’s why entrepreneurs tell me that they still want to move here. But, since not everyone can move they are recreating what we have in their own back yards and I think that’s a great thing. It ensures I’ll still need to hop on a plane to see the latest cool thing.

Adam Jackson

However, it also must be said that there are fantastic ideas that never get funded and some ideas that are fueled and everyone asks, “WTF?”

I try my damndest to not get sucked into the bubble. 9 Months living in San Francisco and my mental migration is nearly complete.

Oooh cat videos!

Om Malik


you said it bro. i mean where else a rookie reporter would be allowed to start a company of his dreams. only in SV. i used to be a skeptic, but no more. warts and all it is still one awesome place to be an entrepreneur.


The ecosystem makes it easier to do the simple stuff, the constant culture of action and renewal makes it easier to recover from failure, but imho, it’s that the people who flock here (and thrive here) share the innate understanding/appreciation/awe of the possible in life.

Here, anything is possible, you’re surrounded by folks who can help you, and you’re only mistake is to not try.

That’s my kind of place, and it’s uniquely the Valley.

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