Richard Florida and his team in Martin Prosperity Institute used the recently released Academic Ranking of World Universities to chart the locations of the world’ s leading 500 research universities by the city and metro region where they are located. The map in the left, by Zara Matheson, shows the geography of academic research centers across the world.
Richard Florida comments that:
The more striking about the map is the degree of geographic concentration on the East and West Coasts of North America, Western Europe, and just a few spots in Asia and Australia/New Zealand. The concentration of the knowledge and scientific assets in just three major mega-clusters ‘“ the East Coast/Great Lakes, West Coast of North America, and in Europe ‘“ is astounding. And it is likely to reflect significant geographic advantages in research and knowledge-generation for them.
It’ s a given that scientific talent is highly mobile. But distance still plays a role. All other things equal, it is both easier for and more likely that leading scientists and researchers will move within these clusters – say between Boston and New York, or even Chicago and Toronto; much the same is true among, say, L.A., San Francisco, and Seattle. And collaboration within them is surely easier as well. This kind of proximity creates considerable short- and long-run advantages both for the universities and research centers within the cluster and the cluster as a whole.
This would seem to imply that ongoing efforts to upgrade research universities, attract top scientific talent, and build world-class research environments in China, India, the Middle East, and other parts of the world are likely to face significant uphill battles. And that established mega-clusters are likely to enjoy significant advantages into the foreseeable future.