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North Carolina Innovation Tracking Index examines state’s standing, may also serve as a valuable resource for other states

April 21, 2022
By: Emily Chesser

North Carolina is continuing to improve its innovation standing and its research and development enterprise continue to lead among other innovation metrics, according to a new state report. The North Carolina Board of Science, Technology, and Innovation published the eighth edition of its Tracking Innovation report. This report uses 39 measures of innovation capacity to evaluate North Carolina’s standing against other states in the nation. In this year’s edition, the report dives even further by summarizing key measures at the county level along with state-by-state standings on many measures.

According to the report, North Carolina now ranks 20th in the nation for overall innovation. This ranking is up from 21st in 2019, 23rd in 2017, and 24th in 2013. Research and development is the state’s best performing area out of the 39 measures studied. The report found that the state is performing above the national average in every research and development measure metric. The report also noted the state’s success in the commercialization of research and development in funding startup companies.

According to the report, a lack of current, accurate, and comprehensive information on indicators related to innovation presented a significant challenge for developing new policies and programs to promote innovation. The Tracking Innovation report intends to provide this valuable information in an accessible format so that policymakers at all levels are sufficiently informed to create effective policies and programs for boosting state innovation.

The report used 39 measures to assess innovation, technology, and economic well-being throughout the state. A few of these measures included income level and distribution, R&D expenditures, intellectual property, entrepreneurs, educational attainment, and broadband access. Each of these 39 measures fits into one of the following six categories:

  • Economic Well-Being
  • Research and Development
  • Commercialization
  • Innovation Organizations
  • Education & Workforce
  • Environment & Infrastructure

The report presents results from North Carolina’s innovation economy and point-in-time comparisons demonstrating North Carolina’s performance compared to the U.S. average and each of the other 49 states. The following six comparison states were used to develop more targeted comparisons: California and Massachusetts as states leading in technology, Georgia and Virginia as strong southern states, and Colorado and Washington as “up and coming” technology states.

This report outlines a practical methodology for evaluating the performance of North Carolina’s innovation economy against not only itself but also the entire U.S. and the other 49 states. Additional states could utilize a similar approach to assess the performance of their innovation economy over time and develop strategies to address their weaknesses.

The full report, Tracking Innovation 2021: North Carolina Innovation Index, is available for download here.

North Carolinainnovation index