Software Study Ranks San Diego #7, Cites Prowess in Scientific R&D

A study to assess the strength of San Diego’s software sector has determined that it ranks seventh among the top 50 U.S. metropolitan areas, according to a “software power index” that weighs a variety of economic factors.

The study, released last week by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., is the first comprehensive analysis of software talent and capital investment in the region. It pegs the overall economic impact of software development in San Diego at $12.2 billion a year (roughly 6 percent of metro San Diego’s total “gross domestic product.” The regional workforce consists of 21,600 software developers and 19,660 related workers. From 2010 to 2015, software development jobs grew three times faster in San Diego than overall job growth, and local employers said they expect software jobs will grow another 18.1 percent this year.

According to the software power index (more on that below), San Diego’s capacity for software development predictably trails innovation hubs in San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston. Yet San Diego ranks ahead of cities that may be better known as hubs for tech innovation, including Austin, TX, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City.

Perhaps more importantly, the study reveals some surprising advantages that San Diego has as a regional hub for software development. They include:

—San Diego software developers are twice as likely to work in scientific R&D than developers in California as a whole.

—Investors have been investing in San Diego biotechnology and genomic startups, where the life sciences and information technologies are converging, at roughly four times the national average.

—Investments also are roughly twice as much on health IT and medical device startups in San Diego, compared with the national average; investment in San Diego cleantech startups is more than six times the national average. According to the study, both industries are heavily software-dependent.

San Diego’s relative strength in non-traditional areas of software development suggests a strategy that regional innovation hubs could adopt to boost their respective software ecosystems—by using what amounts to a judo move that converts a perceived weakness into a strength.

For example, San Diego has no hometown software giants that compare with the likes of Google, Amazon, or Nuance Communications. As a result, the study shows that software developers in San Diego are much less likely to work in the software industry’s core specialties (computer manufacturing, software publishing, and computer systems design).

This might be viewed as a weakness. But the study shows that San Diego’s software expertise lies in more specialized areas of telecommunications, genomics/biotechnology, health IT, and defense. So it’s worth noting that software developers in San Diego are … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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