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Innovation Hotspots: Running on Innovation

High-growth urban areas of the world are often the same ones experiencing a fast, innovative pace. The first and second industrial revolutions saw the rising concentration of the world's wealth in Western Europe and North America. Mirroring these regions' growth is the number of their patent filings and scientific publications over the past decades. Together, patent filings and scientific publications measure the innovative activities taking place in these innovation hotspots.

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Starting in the 1970's, a third industrial revolution has occurred, broadly involving digital technologies, life-science, and biological technologies. Increases in global trade and investment flows made way for the spread of knowledge creation and Innovation, making room for the rise of new players.

Patent race

The patent race shows Tokyo's dominance as a patent filer from the start. The city's massive size combined with the high density of innovative firms is the main reason for this constant patent production. However, the battle for the "best of the rest" is much more dynamic. The appearance of South Korean and Chinese clusters in the top 10 in the last 20 years displaced important western clusters such as New York, San José (Silicon Valley), and London.

Evolution of yearly patent filings by hotspot

Top 10 Patent Filing Clusters per Year
Top 10 Patent Filing Clusters per Year (source: WIPO, based on WIPR 2019 data)

Publication race

The scientific publication race is even more thrilling! Chinese and South Korean cities outperformed clusters from the USA, Japan, and Western Europe in the last 20 years. Beijing is currently holding the lead and widening the gap with its competitors.

Evolution of yearly scientific publications by hotspot

Top 10 Patent Publishing Clusters per Year
Top 10 Patent Publishing Clusters per Year (source: WIPO, based on WIPR 2019 data)


Both patent and scientific publication data indicate that Innovation is more concentrated when it is more valuable. Our findings show that the U.S. hotspots still hold a disproportionate share of top-cited patents and scientific publications, dwarfing other economies' share. Yet, even here, there is a trend toward dispersion, where Chinese and Korean hotspots stand out.

Evolution of top cited patents and scientific publications by top economies and regions

Evolution of top-cited patents and scientific publications

What do you think? Will the emerging competitors also be able to catch up on this front? Which new regions will claim the next innovation hotspot with the rise of the next industrial revolution?

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Related resources

The Geography of Innovation

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In this paper we exploit a unique and rich dataset of patent applications and scientific publications...


1 Patent data used in this story cover all patent documents – granted or not – filed from 1970 to 2017 in all patent offices worldwide and available in PATSTAT and WIPO's PCT collection. Scientific publications records from 1998 to 2017 include articles and conference proceedings from the Web of Science SCIE. Both datasets were geocoded and clustered into their corresponding innovation hotspot.