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Useful Stats: Higher Education R&D Performance by Metro, 2009-2018

December 12, 2019
By: Colin Edwards

This week’s edition of Useful Stats covers Higher Education Research & Development (HERD) expenditures at the metropolitan level, pulling from the recent NSF updates to its HERD performance data. High levels of college and university R&D activity is not surprisingly clustered heavily in the East Coast — ranging from the District of Columbia up to Boston — and on the West Coast in California. The 10-year average HERD expenditures were the greatest in the New York-Northern New Jersey metro area ($3.7 billion), Boston ($2.8 billion), Baltimore ($2.8 billion), Los Angeles ($2.6 billion), and Houston ($2.0 billion). These five metro areas account for nearly 21 percent of the nation’s total 10-year average R&D spending by universities and colleges. Of the 209 metro areas included in this analysis — and excluding nonmetropolitan areas — the top 15 metros account for approximately 45 percent of the 10-year average of total HERD expenditures.

Of these top 15 metro areas, California and Pennsylvania are the only states having more than one metro whose averages rank in the top 15: San Francisco ($2.0 billion), San Diego ($1.6 billion), Philadelphia ($1.7 billion), and Pittsburg ($1.2 billion). The map below visualizes this 10-year average R&D expenditure data, and includes total state HERD expenditures — as recently reported on by SSTI — expressed by the green shading.



While the greatest metropolitan expenditures on higher ed R&D were experienced in the states typically associated with higher levels of R&D spending — California, New York, Texas, Maryland, and Massachusetts — several metro areas outside of these states experienced the greatest rates of growth from 2009 to 2018. The Seattle metro area (489 percent) experienced the greatest 10-year increase, followed by Boise (236 percent), Bloomington, Indiana (219 percent), Oklahoma City (215 percent), and Pensacola (208 percent). However, not all metropolitan areas experienced growth over this period with 47 metros experiencing a decline. Of these, Montgomery, Alabama (-86 percent); Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut (-82 percent); Indianapolis-Carmel, Indiana (-80 percent); Lake Charles, Louisiana (-66 percent); and Monroe, Louisiana (-65 percent) experienced the most severe reductions in R&D spending at their local colleges and universities. This information is summarized in the map below, contextualized by the total state changes in HERD expenditures over the same period as expressed by the green shading.



In the New York-Northern New Jersey metro, Columbia University (23 percent) and New York University (16 percent) accounted for the greatest shares of the area’s 10-year R&D expenditures. In Boston, Harvard (32 percent) and M.I.T. (31 percent) spent the greatest amount on R&D. Baltimore’s 10-year R&D expenditures were driven almost exclusively by the R&D performed at the Johns Hopkins University (81 percent), home to the Applied Physics Laboratory which accounted for more than $1.5 billion of the university’s $2.7 billion in total FY 2018 R&D spending. The University of Southern California (44 percent) and the California Institute of Technology (24 percent) accounted for the greatest shares of 10-year R&D spending in the Los Angeles metro area. In Houston, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (38 percent) and the Baylor Center of Medicine (26 percent) spent the most on R&D activities out of all the universities and colleges in the area.

SSTI’s analysis of the NSF data is also included here in an excel file.


useful stats, r&d, higher ed, metros