Insight: The Ubiquity of Silicon (at least in name)

Numerous Martin Prosperity Institute Insights have looked at the relationships between geography and innovation. It is often through the close proximity of highly skilled individuals and businesses that competitiveness and collaboration occurs, which is why geography has become such an important factor when examining innovation. There is no geographical location more synonymous with innovation and entrepreneurship than the Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and San Jose region better known as “Silicon Valley”. This region has become a unique environment where tech firms thrive and skilled individuals are constantly attracted to live and work. As regions throughout the world continue to transition to the knowledge economy, cities are working hard to attract these types of highly talented individuals. Recently the Government of Canada introduced a program known as “the startup visa” to allow highly skilled immigrants to become permanent residents 1. Similar policies have been adopted in many countries in an attempt to create the next Silicon Valley. Often regions try hard to give themselves that certain ‘silicon’ branding, but can there be more than one Silicon Valley? This MPI Insight looks around the world to determine where else we can find “Siliconias”.

We tracked these Siliconias by finding cities, groups of cities, or regions that had been compared, contrasted or branded Silicon Valley or are a variation of the term (for example “The Silicon Slopes” in Lehi, Utah). Other places on the list that we originally compiled could no longer be reliably sourced. In case we have missed anywhere else around the world, we invite you to tweet us (@Siliconias) or e-mail us ( your suggested Siliconias. This will be updated as people send us more Siliconias to add to our map.

Exhibit 1: Siliconias map


Click to view the full-screen map.

Exhibit 1 is our interactive Siliconia map. Displayed is each Siliconia throughout the world, along with the title, source, a relevant quote and the patent count (1996–2005) for each. The United States is the country with the most Siliconias, followed by England and then Canada. Within the U.S. the east coast from Vermont down to North Carolina has the greatest number of Siliconias, but most regions within the U.S. have several. While Siliconias are sometimes found within close proximity to each other, in New York (Manhattan and Brooklyn) and Oregon (Portland and Washington County), the largest number of cities in Siliconias within a small geography is found within the southern UK (Cambridge, London, M4 Corridor, Bristol and Newport). Currently, the states, provinces or shire counties that have the greatest number of cities in Siliconias are Colorado, Oregon, Ontario, and North Carolina. In certain instances we also found that numerous cities formed one Siliconia, such as the case of the Silicon Prairie (Omaha, Kansas City and Des Moines) and the Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill). Outside the U.S, other largely populated countries such as India, China, Indonesia and Brazil have a relatively small number of cities listed currently on our map. Of the continents with Siliconias, Australia and Africa have the least displayed so far.

Exhibit 2: Siliconia patent count, 1996-2005

Exbitit 2: Siliconia patent count, 1996–2005

While there are many areas throughout the world that are literally nominally like Silicon Valley, this Insight demonstrates that there is really only one Silicon Valley. To illustrate this point, we analysed patent counts for each Siliconia from 1996–2005 according to the total number of U.S. patents issued, where the address of the first named inventor was in that particular area. We found that the Santa Clara area contributes to about 30% of the total patent count for all the Siliconias combined. The Santa Clara patent total of 49,424 is also much higher than the average of the other Siliconias at around 2,033. It takes the next nine Siliconias with the highest patent counts combined to surpass Silicon Valley’s individual count. To further illustrate the disparity between the ‘original’ and the others, Exhibit 2 presents the Siliconias with the five highest and lowest patent counts, along with a few in the middle. The most Siliconias with the highest patent counts come from the U.S. Hsinchu, Taiwan; Paris, France and Fukoka, Japan are outside of the U.S. and also have very high patent counts.

The atmosphere and circumstances that the Silicon Valley area has created, has and will continually be attempted in other parts of the world. As this Insight has displayed, there are numerous cities and regions that have made an effort to create their own Siliconia. While some of these regions have succeeded in becoming prosperous entrepreneurial tech centers, none have been able to come close to reaching the innovative success of the original, and it seems there is indeed only one true Silicon Valley.

If we have missed any Siliconias, we encourage readers to allow us to add additional Siliconias. Please feel free to tweet us your Siliconias @Siliconias or email us at:

Thanks goes out to Patrick Adler for originally developing the idea for this Insight.

Download this Insight (PDF)

The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.