America's Biotech and Life Science Clusters: San Diego's Position and Economic Contributions

Jun 01, 2004

Ross DeVol, Perry Wong, Junghoon Ki, Armen Bedroussian and Rob Koepp

In the race to generate high-paying jobs and underwrite local prosperity, regional leaders from across the U.S. are fighting hard to lure what many believe is the economic growth industry of the 21st century - biotechnology.

According to this study, only a handful of metropolitan areas have succeeded on a scale necessary to ensure industry sustainability. At the top of that list is San Diego, followed closely by Boston and the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill metro area. Another nine are in the running.

"Clusters of existing and emerging science-based technologies are crucial factors in shaping the economic winners and losers of the first half of the 21st century," the authors state in the report. "To create international comparative advantage in a knowledge-based economy, clustering innovative activity is imperative."

According to the study's Biotech Index, the top 12 metros (and their composite scores) are:

1. San Diego (100)
2. Boston (95.1)
3. Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (92.5)
4. San Jose (87.8)
5. Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (83.8)
6. Washington, D.C. (79.4)
7. Philadelphia (76.5)
8. San Francisco (75.8)
9. Oakland (74.3)
10. Los Angeles-Long Beach (66.5)
11. Orange County, CA (54.1)
12. Austin-San Marcos (47.8)

The rankings are based on two broad factors:


  • The biotechnology innovation pipeline - infrastructure that allows a metro to capitalize on its biotech knowledge and creativity, such as the quality of its workforce and amount of research and development dollars it receives; and
  • the current impact assessment - an area's success in bringing ideas to the marketplace and creating companies, jobs and products.

Overall, researchers used 44 different measurements, from the biotech venture-capital funding to the number of biotech scientists working in the region. It is the most comprehensive measurement of regional biotech centers ever conducted. Among the study's firsts: use of data from smaller, better-defined Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) instead of Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Areas (CMSAs); more sophisticated weighting by population, employment or gross metro product, rather than using absolute numbers; and a unique biotechnology and life sciences data set providing detailed employment estimates through 2002 for recent growth comparisons.

The study, prepared in cooperation with Deloitte & Touche LLP, focuses on the index's top metro, San Diego, whose life sciences industry is directly and indirectly responsible for 55,600 jobs and $5.8 billion in income - 5.3 percent of output - in the metro. It offers a case study of what it takes to form and nurture a biotech cluster.

The study measures each metro's strength in five categories: R&D inputs, risk capital, human capital, biotech workforce and current impact. San Diego places first in R&D inputs and current impact. San Jose is first in the risk capital category, while Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill is first in the human capital and biotech workforce categories.

If life sciences (which includes pharmaceuticals and medical devices) is included in the measurements, Boston would rank number one, followed by: San Diego (2), San Jose (3), Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (4), Philadelphia (5), Seattle-Bellevue-Everett (6), San Francisco (7), Washington, D.C. (8), Oakland (9), Los Angeles (10), Orange County (11) and Austin-San Marcos (12).

Note: The data set used in preparation of this study is available for purchase for $495. If you would like to purchase it, please contact us at 310-570-4600, or e-mail us at inquiries@milkeninstitute.org.