Room to improve

See where Texas falls among most innovative states in the U.S.

Texas has some room to improve when it comes to being innovative. Getty Images

Texas isn't among the top 10 innovative states in the United States, according to a new study, but it isn't too far off. The Lone Star state ranked as the country's No. 15 most innovative state, as reported by WalletHub.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia were evaluated across 24 metrics two dimensions: human capital and innovation environment. Texas ranked No. 18 for its human capital and No. 14 for its innovation environment.

Texas' star shined bright across a few categories and made it in the top 10 in:

  • Business churn
  • Jobs in new companies
  • Entrepreneurial activity
  • Industry-cluster strength (refers to the level of high employment specialization of a cluster, which is defined by the U.S. Cluster Mapping Project as a "regional concentration of related industries in a particular location")
  • Average internet speed

The state performed the worst in the following categories:

  • Scientific-knowledge output (measures the number of peer-reviewed articles published per $1 Million of Academic S&E research and development)
  • Open roads and skies friendly laws
  • Average annual federal small-business funding per GDP
  • Share of households with internet access
  • Research and development spending per capita
  • Research and development intensity

The U.S. is expected to spend a reported $581 billion on research and development, according to WalletHub, which is more than any other country in the world. Some states, the study found, are better at pulling their weight. Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Colorado make up the top five, in that order, while Tennessee, Iowa, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Mississippi round up the bottom of the list.

While there's much to learn from other innovative ecosystems, copying them is not the best plan, says expert on the study Joseph Tranquillo, Bucknell University professor and author.

"Trying to replicate an innovative ecosystem that has worked somewhere else never seems to turn out well," he says. "Like biological ecosystems, they must be homegrown from the strengths that already lie within."

Paladin Drones wants eyes in the skies within 30 seconds of an emergency call. Getty Images

When 911 is called, first responders usually arrive at the scene around three or four minutes after the call's placed. But Houston-based Paladin Drones wants to have eyes on the ground ­— or eyes in the sky — within the first 30 seconds.

The company's mission is simple: to outfit public agencies and first-responders with drones that can be autonomously deployed to the site of an emergency. Equipped with thermal sensors and flying around 200 feet high, the drones can give police and firefighters near-instantaneous information on a situation underway.

At the beginning of April, Paladin Drones began working with the Memorial Villages Police Department to respond to incidents in Memorial Villages, Hunter's Creek, Piney Point Village, and Bunker Hill.

"(This is) one of the first departments in the country to be testing this technology," says Paladin Drones co-founder Divyaditya Shrivastava. "We're very limited in the area that we cover, and that's just because we're taking baby steps and going as carefully and deliberately as possible."

Paladin Drones was co-founded by Shrivastava and Trevor Pennypacker. In 2018, the company went through a three-month boot camp at Y Combinator, a California-based incubator that's churned out Dropbox, AirBNB, Instacart and more. Through Y Combinator, Paladin Drones was connected with venture capital investors in Houston.

The company's drones capture critical information, such as a vehicle's color and body type, a suspect's clothing, or the direction a suspect fled the scene. And since roughly 70 percent of 911 calls involve witnesses or passerby giving inaccurate information about the emergency's location, these drones will be able to pinpoint the exact location of an emergency, further aiding the arrival of first responders.

"We're working on tracking technology to give the drones the capability to auto-follow (suspects)," Shrivastava says.

Paladin Drones is looking to hire a handful of employees in the coming months, Shrivastava says. He declined to disclose any information on the company's funding plans, but said it's still involved with Y Combinator in California.

Shrivastava began developing Paladin Drones when he was finishing high school in Ohio. The summer before his senior year, a friend's house burned down. While nobody was injured in the fire, the home was destroyed, and Shrivastava spoke with the local firefighters. Tragically, the 911 call that alerted firefighters of the emergency was one of the 70 percent of calls that involved inaccurate location information.

"If they'd known the exact location, the house would've been saved," Shrivastava says. "A fire doubles every 30 seconds."