With the U.S. ranking third out of 132 countries in the latest Global Innovation Index, a new report on 2024’s Most & Least Innovative States offers insight.

To give credit to the states that have contributed the most to America’s innovative success, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 25 key metrics. The data set ranges from the share of STEM professionals to R&D spending per capita.

Innovation in New York (1=Most Innovative, 25=Avg.):

  • Overall Rank: 24th
  • 33rd – Share of STEM Professionals
  • 36th – Projected STEM-Job Demand by 2030
  • 37th – Eighth-Grade Math & Science Performance
  • 26th – Share of Science & Engineering Graduates Aged 25+
  • 25th – Share of Technology Companies
  • 14th – R&D Spending per Capita
  • 5th – Venture-Capital Funding per Capita

How can state policymakers encourage and facilitate innovation?

“Encourage local universities to work with local industry using seed or matching grants; establish a reasonable regulatory environment; provide safe, inexpensive middle-class housing next to startup zones; invest in R&D areas where the local region has a competitive advantage; improve K-12 education and make it more equitable,” said
Shivendra Panwar, professor, at New York University.

“From subsidies to tax breaks, policymakers have many ways to encourage innovation. While many states focus on attracting firms to their area, I believe a more fruitful area to invest in is education. A myriad of interventions can be used to improve education, from incentivizing better attendance to recruiting and retaining the best teachers. Most schools have room to improve their scores in math, science, and related fields. In higher education, offering a robust set of STEM-related courses and making sure majors evolve to meet students’ demand to study new and innovative fields are both important. In any of these endeavors, it is important to remember that innovation happens across the economy, not just in STEM fields. Students need to be trained in natural sciences, business, and many other fields if their innovative ideas are going to address society’s most pressing needs,” said Nate Peach, Ph.D., associate professor, at Fort Lewis College

What can policymakers do to assist those who may lose their jobs or otherwise be displaced by innovation across industries?

“Displacement for any reason is devastating to individuals; connecting individuals with new companies, startups, and sandbox participants, along with necessary training opportunities is key. We have seen this in the manufacturing sector for decades; South Carolina has done a nice job of this in the Upstate area. With salary support for companies and individuals, displacement due to innovation can be turned into an opportunity. The US has a history of this kind of training, though not in a meaningful way in recent times. State universities, community colleges, and trade schools are well-equipped to handle this on a local level, but they need to put politics aside, as well as the bureaucracy that has become a hallmark,” said Dr. Jimmie Lenz director, master of Engineering in FinTech, professor, at Duke University.

“Job loss and displacement are tough. We should not underestimate the economic and psychological pain caused by unemployment. Individuals, families, and communities all suffer when they are on the losing end of creative destruction. Subsidies for retraining programs are one way to assist those who find themselves out of work. These programs can be an effective means to update skills to those currently valued by employers. Unfortunately, not everyone can take advantage of or will benefit from these types of programs. Moving to areas with better labor market opportunities is a second avenue, but as with retraining, for many, this is not a viable option. Leaving one’s community can be traumatic, and moving to a new area is a huge gamble. In many ways, the most effective intervention is to make sure the educational system is equipping people with the skills necessary to navigate an ever-changing economy. When unexpectedly out of work, a lifelong learner will be able to utilize their educational foundation to navigate the transition to a new job,” Peach added.

What skills best equip individuals to be competitive in a changing economic landscape?

“Continued learning. There is no single skill that will satisfy every role and every individual need, but there has to be a willingness and the drive to acquire more knowledge and skills. This is a constant in an ever-changing world; there is no single set of skills that can sustain an individual over their lifetime. This is something that lawmakers can assist with, but individuals need to take the responsibility to acquire new skills and knowledge; there is no easy fix here,” Lenz added.

“There is a mix of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills that can help people stay competitive in an ever-changing economy. As far as hard skills, examples that come to mind include data analysis, coding, and software development. In innovative industries, analytical and mathematical thinking are in high demand. In one’s educational journey, it is important to not ignore soft skills. Being creative, having a strong work ethic, and a willingness to take on challenging problems are all key ingredients in the innovation process. While we often think that people either have soft skills, or they do not, this is not the case. Many things can be done to hone these skills. Taking classes on art, reading great novels, or being a kind and compassionate colleague are just a few ways to improve your soft skills,” Peach said.

For the full report, please visit here.

Source: WalletHub