Lexington earned a 106.2 on StatsAmerica’s Innovation 2.0 index, indicating a “very high relative capacity for innovation” and ranking among the top 10% in the country.
Lexington performed particularly well on the Human Capital and Knowledge Creation Index, which measures a region’s ability to innovate based on population characteristics and knowledge infrastructure, using factors such as educational attainment, knowledge creation, technology diffusion, and STEM education and occupations. In fact, Lexington’s score of 148.1 ranks the city first in Kentucky and among the top 3% in the country!
The Human Capital and Knowledge Creation Index is made up of three components.
Educational Attainment – As expected, Lexington performed well here in bachelor’s degree and advanced degree attainment. According to the latest Census Bureau data, 41.6% of Lexington residents over age 25 have a bachelor’s degree, ranking Lexington 11th in the country among cities with 300,000+ people, and 18.9% have an advanced degree, ranking Lexington #9 in the country.
Knowledge Creation and Technology Diffusion – This measures the spread of knowledge and creativity through networks and support structures, specifically patent technology, university-based knowledge spillovers from ongoing research and development, and business incubators. Although data was not disclosed, we can guess at factors that helped Lexington score highly in this area. In 2016, there were 215 patents issued to Lexington inventors, and in 2015 the University of Kentucky’s R&D expenditures were over $330 million. Also, entrepreneurs can find guidance and support from many sources in Lexington. To name a few, the Kentucky Innovation Network, the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership, the Bluegrass Small Business Development Center, Awesome Inc., SPARK, 5Across, and Lexington SCORE have helped many entrepreneurs build their startup business.
STEM Education and Occupations – STEM fields produce new technology and drive innovation, and this measures looks at both the existing and future STEM workforce. Again, although the actual data used by StatsAmerica is not available, let’s look at several influencing factors. In 2015 alone, the University of Kentucky contributed to the STEM workforce by graduating over 1,100 students in the STEM degree majors identified by Innovation 2.0, including 567 engineering degrees (441 bachelor’s degrees, 79 master’s degrees, and 45 doctorates) and 322 biological and biomedical sciences (249 bachelor’s degrees, 30 master’s degrees, 10 post-grads, and 33 doctorates). As for the current STEM workforce, Innovation 2.0 looks at an area’s technology-based occupations and the high-tech industry. About 10,000 Lexingtonians work in the STEM industry areas identified by Innovation 2.0, and another 6,700 work in a similar field. In total, about 11% of Lexington’s workforce is in the STEM industry or related employment.