According to a ranking by 24/7 Wall St., Ann Arbor is the sixth most innovative city in America.
Rankings were generated by compiling the highest number of issued patents per 100,000 city residents using data from the 2015 U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Ann Arbor granted 7,928 patents in 2015 with 218.7 patents granted per 100,000 residents.
The list, consisting of 25 U.S. cities, noted that 95 percent of Ann Arbor’s adult residents have obtained a high school diploma. Additionally, 54.5 percent of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the second highest percentage of the ranked cities.
Ann Arbor SPARK, a non-profit organization supporting economic development in Ann Arbor and the greater community, has worked to spur innovation in the city. The organization has two business incubators in Washtenaw County that provide support to new businesses, including affordable office spaces and mentorships.
Paul Krutko, CEO and president of Ann Arbor SPARK, said he believes Ann Arbor’s innovative culture is now receiving the acknowledgment for which it has been striving.
“Ann Arbor continues to gain national and global recognition for the innovative companies that are growing in the region,” Krutko said. “Ann Arbor SPARK is part of a robust ecosystem that supports these companies throughout their life cycle, through our entrepreneurial programs, business and talent attraction efforts, and project leadership. All of our work is done in concert with our partners here and at the state, including the University of Michigan.”
Innovate Blue, a University entrepreneurial organization, also supports and connects the Michigan entrepreneurial network and community.
The unit serves more than 15 entrepreneurship programs and centers and more than 30 student entrepreneurial organizations, according to the Innovate Blue website. About 15 percent of undergraduates are involved with entrepreneurship at the University, according to Megha Krishnan, marketing and communications manager for Innovate Blue.
Krishnan also writes and produces Made at Michigan, an annual report of entrepreneurship highlights with a special focus on graduate and undergraduate student ventures created over the course of the year. She described Innovate Blue as a portal that connects students within the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the University and helps them bring their ideas to life.
“I have seen students come up with ideas, and it starts off as something really visionary, which ultimately transforms into a beautiful finished product that serves the community,” Krishnan said. “They use all of the resources across the University and beyond in Ann Arbor to start ventures, companies and nonprofits that directly contribute to the greater good.
TechArb Student Venture Accelerator supplies a co-working space for University student entrepreneurs. The organization trains students to bring their ideas to the next level by offering workshops, mentorships and support systems.
Ryan Gourley, director of TechArb Student Venture Accelerator, said the strong sense of community in Ann Arbor supports the curiosity necessary to cultivate innovative students.
“It’s hard to separate the University of Michigan from Ann Arbor,” Gourley said. “We at TechArb are training students through our entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem here at the University and helping them build the mindsets, skill sets, connections and relationships to learn how to innovate out in the real world after graduation.”
Engineering junior Andrew Wong is on the executive board for BLUELab, a student organization that engineers sustainable design processes internationally and also locally, and works with new member engagement and development. He said the University helps innovation in Ann Arbor by providing a place for students to become involved.
“BLUELab is helping students at the University of Michigan get an introduction to sustainable design,” Wong said. “I think we are doing a great job of being innovative and learning at a young age to do so … When I think of innovation, I think it is not just creating new things but leading the charge to change.”