In terms of sheer numbers, the top metro area in the world when it comes to filing for patents is the one you’d expect: San Francisco.
According to a recent paper from the OECD, a think tank that benchmarks rich countries against one another, the city that serves as an unofficial capital of Silicon Valley topped other tech savvy metro areas, with nearly 9,000 applications in 2008. (That’s the year on which the OECD made its comparisons.) Tokyo and Osaka followed in turn. Both had more than 4,000 applications.
But when it comes to the number of patent applications per head of population, the winner is somewhere you might not have thought of: the slightly-dowdy city of Eindhoven, in the south of Holland.
The ancestral homeland of Dutch electronics giant Philips, which began there in 1891, Eindhoven hustled to remake itself once Philips’ headquarters decamped to Amsterdam in 1997 (though some elements of the company remain there.) ASML, which makes the equipment for making silicon chips, is located just outside the city. And the town has also reinvented itself as something of a hub for the 3-D printing industry. 3-D printing firm Shapeways has an office there, for example.