Stem (Huh), what is it good for? Absolutely everything!

Feb 7, 2017

Ok, so you’ve heard of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and STEAM (adding in the Arts) and it’s all great, right? Opening doors to new opportunities, enriching education, making kids aware of, and helping them prepare for, new and exciting careers – whether that includes a track through higher education or not. We’ve heard about how U.S. students don’t stack up well against international competition in math and science and that we need to improve in order to better compete in global markets. And there are lots of articles about programs and initiatives, but how often do we look at how all of this is impacting our economy, locally, regionally and nationally?

Each year CONNECT releases its Innovation Report, which provides an overview of the strength and impact of the innovation economy in the San Diego region. Innovation economy? What’s that? In San Diego, we describe it, broadly, as any company in the tech or life science industries. The innovation economy encompasses well-known professions like life science diagnostics, research tools, medical devices, defense, transportation, and pharmaceuticals. But it’s also comprised of emerging industries like bluetech, cleantech, ag-tech, cybersecurity, and robotics and unmanned vehicles.

San Diego’s innovation sector, along with government/military and tourism, is one of the top three drivers of the regional economy, and many here would say it’s the number one driver for the future of San Diego, and the American economy on a global scale. Thanks to the Innovation Report, we don’t just think that, we KNOW that, and it helps organizations across San Diego make better decisions and investments for the future. From government leaders and schools to corporations and non-profit organizations, people across the county turn to this report to guide their planning and advocacy work to foster the growth and expansion of the region’s economy including: availability of international visas and workforce training for talent in high-growth clusters, building an attractive environment of capital investment, allocation of grant funding, reform of the patent system, and zoning.

So, what have we learned from the Innovation Report? Plenty. We analyzed the 2015 report, along with the last four years of reports, and have found the following trends of interest:

  • The innovation sector is gaining a stronger foothold in San Diego’s economy. The innovation economy has grown to $52 billion dollars, which represent almost a quarter of San Diego’s GDP.
  • There is faster and more robust growth of innovation startups. 2013-2015 saw more than 400 startups created each year in San Diego County. That’s an increase from an average of 300 startups year over year between 2005 and 2012.
  • San Diego was the number one county in California for creation of new life sciences startups in 2015.
  • There is steady job growth in the innovation sector. Employment in San Diego’s innovation economy has grown steadily since 2011 from 136,000 jobs to nearly 150,000 in 2015. With an average salary of over $116,000, innovation economy jobs pay, on average, 2.4 times the average job in San Diego.
  • Venture funding to early stage companies is trending up. Seed stage deal funding was up more than 600 percent in 2015 over 2014 and early stage deal funding was up more than 170 percent. Forty percent of the San Diego’s VC funding went to seed and early stage companies in 2015.
  • Corporate mergers and acquisitions activity in the innovation sector is on an upswing. San Diego’s innovation economy represented almost 80 percent of the region’s total deal value in 2015 totaling $31 billion dollars.
  • Research in San Diego is big business. San Diego’s research institutions have a $4.6 billion dollar economic impact and are the core of the region’s $14.4 billion dollar scientific R&D cluster.

These are tangible outcomes of investment in the innovation economy over thirty, forty, fifty years and that includes STEM education. The CONNECT Innovation Report provides hard evidence that the work we do with our students, teachers, entrepreneurs, research institutes, mentors, investors,and partners has tangible outcomes that grow the San Diego economy in an impactful way. We’re proud to take a leading role in growing San Diego’s future.

You truly can go from kids building robots and dissecting frogs in grade school or high school to a tangible, long-lasting revolution that includes creating better jobs and a thriving, growing economy. You’re not just teaching kids skills with STEM. You’re instilling them with a sense of ambition, the power of discovery and an entrepreneurial spirit about problem solving. We see a whole new generation of entrepreneurs in San Diego that are starting companies that will change the world.

We’re so thrilled to have U.S. News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference returning to San Diego in May 2017 because this is where it all begins. It’s inspiring and enlightening to see how organizations are planting seeds at the early stages for the people who will become tomorrow’s innovators and entrepreneurs.

Want to read the full innovation report? Click here! Looking to attend U.S. News STEM Solutions National Leadership Conference and be part of growing innovation? Click here to join us in San Diego!

Originally published on U.S. News Stem Solutions blog