On October 12, 2022, the CMAP Board approved an update to the ON TO 2050 long-range plan, including an updated indicators appendix.

This indicator tracks the total number of utility patents (for “any novel, non-obvious, and useful machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter or process”) issued to residents and businesses in the Chicago region by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. High levels of patenting generally indicate a talented regional workforce and businesses with a strong capacity to conduct research and development. These ideas can generate significant value. Prior analysis has found that U.S. workers in industries with higher-than-average levels of intellectual property and patenting earn significantly more than those in other industries do, despite no significant difference in education levels. At the same time, the invention of new products and services enhances the competitiveness of our region’s industries. Patents can play a special role in encouraging innovation by granting inventors exclusive rights to use or license an invention for a set period of time. These rights help businesses capitalize on their investments in research and development and provide a competitive edge in the marketplace.


While this indicator reports the number of patents issued annually in the region, the target values are measured as the share of total U.S. patents issued in northeastern Illinois. This allows benchmark comparisons to peer regions and national trends.

In 2016 the Chicago metropolitan statistical area accounted for 2.9 percent of the U.S. population, but only 2.7 percent of total patent output originating in the U.S. Thus, the region’s patent output share divided by its population share ratio equaled 0.92. The region’s “fair share” of patents for 2016 was 2.9 percent (equivalent to its population share). The goal for 2025 is for the region to increase its patent output to meet its 2016 “fair share” of patent output — 2.9 percent.

The top 25 most populous metro areas account for 42.4 percent of the U.S. population and 53.6 percent of the nation’s patents. In other words, they produce 26 percent more than their “fair share” of patents. The goal for 2050 is for our region to match the patent output rate of the top 25 metropolitan areas and to have a patent output share that is 26 percent more than the region’s share of national population. The 2050 target is for the region to produce 3.7 percent of the nation’s patents, a 26 percent increase over the 2025 target.

2025: 2.9 percent or more of U.S. origin patents issued in northeastern Illinois. This is equivalent to our region’s current “fair share” of patents (i.e., a patent output share/population share ratio equal to 1.00).

2050: 3.7 percent or more of U.S. origin patents issued in northeastern Illinois. This represents the goal of achieving 26 percent more than our region’s current “fair share” of patent output (i.e., a patent output share/population share equal to 1.26).


Graphical representation of data follows.

Chicago region’s share of U.S. origin utility patents issued annually


  •   Actual
  •   Target


CMAP analysis of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Patents View data.

GO TO 2040 context

This indicator was introduced as part of the GO TO 2040 Plan update, with 2020 and 2040 targets of 3.1 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. Since the plan update, the Chicago region’s share of U.S.-origin utility patents issued annually has remained largely constant, while its “fair share” of patents has dropped from 3.1 to 2.9 percent.

Related recommendations