The U.S. leads the world by a wide margin in attracting inventors from other countries, a key advantage in an ever more knowledge-based global economy.
More than half of the immigrant inventors who switched countries between 2006 and 2010 came to the U.S., according to a report Wednesday by wealth management giant U.S. Trust. Germany was a distant second at 7.1%.
The U.S. attracted 117,244 immigrant inventors, or 57.1% of the total, according to the report. China and India lost the most.
Luring educated inventors is a key factor in spurring job growth, especially high-wage positions that boost national living standards.
Immigrant inventors are “among the most sought-after people in the world,” Joseph Quinlan, chief market strategist at U.S. Trust, wrote in his report.
“Think of these people as best in class, the top brains of their respective country,” Quinlan wrote. “They are restless, driven to create value, and at the forefront of incubating/spawning new companies or industries.”
The underlying data in the report came from the World Intellectual Property Organization, which studied Patent Cooperation Treaty applications.
Immigrants make up 12% of the U.S. labor force, but constitute 25% of U.S. scientists end engineers, 60% of post-doctoral students and 26% of U.S.-based Nobel laureates, according to the organization.
Newcomers to the U.S. are drawn by a variety of factors, including top-notch universities, the country’s entrepreneurial heritage and strong intellectual property rights, according to U.S. Trust. There’s also “the potential for unfathomable wealth.”
Of course, attracting coveted inventors is not a national birthright. There is concern that improved living standards in emerging nations, combined with the anti-immigrant fervor in some circles within the U.S., could prompt some inventors to remain in their home countries.
For the moment, sought-after inventors continue to come to the U.S. despite the sclerotic immigration debate that has bogged down in Congress.
“With immigration reform all but dead on Capitol Hill, America is doing its best to fumble its advantage in attracting the best of global human capital,” Quinlan wrote.
Follow Walter Hamilton on Twitter @LATwalter