Geeks put cities on the map

If you want to put your city on the map, get the geeks to move in. Better still, get the super-geeks to move in. Researchers at Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico have found that one of the most exceptional places to live in the US is not New York or San Francisco – but Corvallis, Oregon.

And it’s largely down to the workforce at HP.

Corvallis can’t compete on population size with the likes of the Big Apple, but according to a report by Luis Bettencourt and his colleagues, the city is exceptionally creative. And that puts it towards the top of the table on a ranking of US cities rated on their personality.

The New Scientist sums up the report on Corvallis like this: “For an innovative vibe, head here. Its 80,000 residents produce more patents for its size than any other place in the US. The town’s record-beating output is down to a local Hewlett-Packard facility.”

The report, entitled “Urban Scaling and Its Deviations: Revealing the Structure of Wealth, Innovation and Crime across Cities” and published via PLoS One, also cites San Jose, California, the unofficial capital of Silicon Valley, as exceptional… if a little bland.

“Safe but bland, or so the caricature goes,” explains the NS. “Yet the new scaling system pegs San Jose as one of the most exceptional US cities, in part because it produces far more patents than expected for a city of its size.”

Moving on to New York, and surprisingly the city is described as pretty ordinary for its size. Nothing too exceptional. In other words, not enough geeks.

Bettencourt and colleagues said they had recalculated data on factors such as violent crime, personal income, GDP and patent rankings for more than 350 US metropolitan areas to come up with the findings.

However, non-geek cities may be catching up fast. Forbes reported yesterday how newer boom towns were rivalling the typical tech heartlands in the US. It included “New York’s Silicon Alley” – packed with tech start-up entrepreneurs, especially in social networking – along with Boston, Dallas and Seattle.

Geeks have also been busy putting cities on the map in other parts of the world too.

Look at Bangalore – loads of innovation for software and product development there. Big names like Texas Instruments, Microsoft, Intel and Sun have all set up shop in this part of India.

Meanwhile, Ottawa in Canada likes to think of itself as “Silicon Valley North”.

In the UK, there’s Cambridge, and of course London. David Cameron has outlined his vision for London’s East End to be transformed into “one of the world’s great technology centres”. Vodafone, Google, Facebook and Intel are among those that have said they’ll commit to invest in the long-term future of the area.

According to the government, the tech city will be a “hub that stretches from Shoreditch and Old Street to the Olympic Park”.

The Shoreditch / Old Street area of London is already buzzing with tech companies.

Elizabeth Varley, CEO of TechHub, which provides desk space, co-working and a community where tech people can work and meet in London, says: “The area was termed ‘Silicon Roundabout’ a few years ago as a joke, but it is highly populated with great tech companies.

“There’s the larger success stories like MOO and, but TechHub’s research has identified well over 100 tech companies in the area, which represents growth of 700% over the last three years.”

According to Varley, all kinds of companies and products are coming through London and TechHub in particular, with a strong bias towards the web. Everything from smartphone apps and consumer web and social-related products to agile B2B software and communications.

“The success of Silicon Valley in the US is, in part, due to having loads of tech companies all based in the same area, meaning that entrepreneurs meet, work together, play together, live together and basically eat, sleep and breathe their companies,” she adds.

“While the East End of London isn’t quite at that stage, there is a real buzz being created in the area by all these companies growing together.”