Ranking texas

Here's how Texas ranks among the nation's most innovative states

According to a recent ranking, Texas is chugging along as an innovative state. Photo by gguy44/Getty Images

Innovation is one of the cogs of any state's economic engine, and it appears Texas' innovation cogs are decently oiled.

Texas ranks 17th in a new study by personal finance website WalletHub of the country's innovative states. While the Lone Star State isn't the most innovative state in the ranking — that accolade goes to Massachusetts — it still earns above-average status.

"As the ninth-largest economy in the world, the Lone Star State is an economic and innovation powerhouse that offers unmatched opportunities for families and businesses. Texas continues to lead as a top state for job creation and for attracting job-creating capital investments — thanks to our unwavering commitment to economic freedom and our young, educated, and diverse workforce," according to the Texas governor's office.

While Texas sits below big states such as Massachusetts, California (No. 7), New Jersey (No. 12), and Michigan (No. 14) in terms of innovation, it beats other large states like North Carolina (No. 19), Florida (No. 20), Illinois (No. 23), New York (No. 25), and Tennessee (No. 44).

For its study, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 22 indicators of innovation friendliness, ranging from share of STEM professionals and R&D spending per capita to tech-company density and VC funding per capita.

Texas fared well in categories like tech-company density (No. 14), VC funding per capita (No. 16), share of STEM professionals (No. 17), projected demand for STEM jobs by 2028 (No. 18), and share of science and engineering graduates age 25 and over (No. 24). But the state lagged the majority of states in areas such as math and science performance among eighth-graders (No. 29) and R&D spending per capita (No. 32).

"My goal is to have Texas be the home of innovation," Gov. Greg Abbott told the Austin American-Statesman in 2016. "We are heading into a new era that I want Texas to be in the forefront of, a new era of life sciences research — a combination of technology and life sciences — and medical advances, where over the coming two or three decades there will be incredible advances in medicine and health care, and the cures and treatments we have for people."

At the time, Abbott envisioned a "research triangle" encompassing Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio.

Houston, of course, plays a significant role in Texas' innovation economy. For instance, it ranks 24th on a list of the most inventive U.S. cities based on the number of patents issued per capita. (Texas ranks 20th among the states for the number of patents issued per capita.) And this year, The Ion innovation hub will open as the anchor of Houston's 16-acre South Main Innovation District.

"Houston is where innovation and industry converge. Ours is a city that chooses to take humankind's boldest challenges head-on, from landing on the moon to developing the first artificial heart," the Greater Houston Partnership says. "And Houston's innovation ecosystem continues to thrive through programs like TMC Innovation Institute at the Texas Medical Center and spaces like the emerging South Main Innovation District."

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Building Houston

 
 

For over a year now, scientists have been testing wastewater for COVID-19. Now, the public can access that information. Photo via Getty Images

In 2020, a group of researchers began testing Houston's wastewater to collect data to help identify trends at the community level. Now, the team's work has been rounded up to use as an online resource.

The Houston Health Department and Rice University launched the dashboard on September 22. The information comes from samples collected from the city's 39 wastewater treatment plants and many HISD schools.

"This new dashboard is another tool Houstonians can use to gauge the situation and make informed decisions to protect their families," says Dr. Loren Hopkins, chief environmental science officer for the health department and professor in the practice of statistics at Rice University, in a news release. "A high level of virus in your neighborhood's wastewater means virus is spreading locally and you should be even more stringent about masking up when visiting public places."

The health department, Houston Water, Rice University, and Baylor College of Medicine originally collaborated on the wastewater testing. Baylor microbiologist Dr. Anthony Maresso, director of BCM TAILOR Labs, led a part of the research.

"This is not Houston's first infectious disease crisis," Maresso says in an earlier news release. "Wastewater sampling was pioneered by Joseph Melnick, the first chair of Baylor's Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, to get ahead of polio outbreaks in Houston in the 1960s. This work essentially ushered in the field of environmental virology, and it began here at Baylor. TAILOR Labs is just continuing that tradition by providing advanced science measures to support local public health intervention."

It's an affordable way to track the virus, says experts. People with COVID-19 shed viral particles in their feces, according to the release, and by testing the wastewater, the health department can measure important infection rate changes.

The dashboard, which is accessible online now, is color-coded by the level of viral load in wastewater samples, as well as labeled with any recent trend changes. Houstonians can find the interactive COVID-19 wastewater monitoring dashboard, vaccination sites, testing sites, and more information at houstonemergency.org/covid19.

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