Maryland is the third-best environment in the U.S. for tech and science companies and employees, according to a new national report.
The Milken Institute, a California-based economic think tank, puts out its "State Technology and Science Index" every two years. The index ranks states based on 107 different indicators of healthy tech ecosystems — research and development inputs, entrepreneurial infrastructure, science and tech workforce and more.
Its R&D prowess and unmatched technical workforce landed Maryland at the No. 3 spot overall — above the home of the famed Silicon Valley tech hub — for a second consecutive time. Maryland is flanked in this year's index by Massachusetts and Colorado at first and second, and California and Utah at fourth and fifth.
The Milken report especially highlights the strengths of Maryland's science and tech workforce, which outranks that of any other state. It receives the highest concentration of federal research and development dollars, and is home to the highest concentration of computer and data science experts in the country, as well as the second-highest concentrations of engineers and life and physical scientists. Maryland has an above-average concentration in eight high-tech sectors, the index notes.
Other notable factors strengthening Maryland's tech environment include workforce development programs, and partnerships and funding efforts aimed specifically at enhancing the tech and life sciences sectors. For example, the Employment Advancement Right Now program is a public-private partnership that helps workers earn new certifications and credentials so they can get back into the workforce and take high-tech jobs. Maryland also provides tax credits to encourage investment in growing biotechnology and cyber companies within the state.
The Milken report also made a nod to the Maryland Technology Development Corp., or TEDCO, which employs a unique model as a state-backed investment firm. TEDCO puts early funding support behind startups and commercialization efforts born and bred in the state.
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Maryland does have some tech shortcomings, though. The state fell 38 places in high-tech employment growth rankings compared to the national average.
However, the Milken report notes "given the high concentrations of computer science, engineering and life science employment in the state, the decline is not overly concerning." And a large contributor to the lasting stability of Maryland's tech employment is its proximity to and reliance on the federal government. The state houses more than 30 federal agencies, including science and tech-focused entities like U.S. Cyber Command and the National Institutes of Health. Such organizations also contribute to the advanced technical capacity of Maryland's collective workforce.
The State Technology and Science Index is intended to provide a benchmark for local policymakers to evaluate their state's strengths and weaknesses, and encourage the development of strategies for improving science and technology education, attracting new businesses and creating jobs in the tech sector.
To that end, the Milken report offered these recommendations to lawmakers across all states:
- Increase scholarships and financial aid to lower the cost of higher education for students pursuing science and tech-related careers.
- Align curriculums to make it easier for students studying science and tech to transfer from lower-cost community colleges to universities, where they can earn a higher degree.
- Encourage partnerships between universities and private technical companies that can provide work experience opportunities to students, to improve workforce readiness.
- Make employee noncompete laws less restrictive, in order to encourage a freer exchange of ideas and talent among tech companies.