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San Diego's scientific research institutions have $4.6 B impact on regional economy

Study finds research institutions are the nucleus of San Diego's $14.4B scientific R&D cluster; economic impact equivalent of hosting 33 U.S. Open Golf Championships

San Diego - San Diego, CA - Today Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, Asm. Speaker Toni Atkins, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and numerous business and civic leaders revealed the results of "PDF icon The Economic Impact of San Diego's Research Institutions" - the first study to comprehensively measure San Diego's scientific research and development (R&D) cluster. In total, San Diego's scientific nonprofit, research institutes and university centers have a $4.6 billion total economic impact on the regional economy - the equivalent of hosting 33 U.S. Open Golf Championships annually.

"When it comes to the strength of the region's life sciences cluster, San Diego has long been a top competitor with other cities across the globe," said Mark Cafferty, president and CEO of San Diego Regional EDC. "However, no other region has the strength and depth of San Diego's research institutions. As our recent study shows, San Diego-based research is not only leading the way in terms of scientific discovery, but it is also driving company growth and creating jobs."

As part of his efforts to support breakthrough scientific discoveries in San Diego, Mayor Faulconer convened local research institutions in December 2014 for an informal meeting. While the global impact of San Diego's scientific discovery is impressive, the Mayor discovered there was not concrete data that explained what this unique, scientific hub meant for the region's economy.

"From Ebola to Alzheimer's to HIV, San Diego's research institutions are developing breakthrough therapies that are advancing healthcare and quality of life on a global scale," said City of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. "With this study, for the first time, we not only understand the impact these research institutions have on global well-being, but the way they drive job creation and impact our economy. I look forward to continuing to work with these scientists, entrepreneurs and research institutions to ensure San Diego remains a global pioneer in scientific discovery."

In San Diego, scientific innovation is driven by company creation and a talented workforce. Combined, these elements have a lasting impact on the region's global footprint.

"San Diego companies are among the most visionary and innovative in the country," said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. "This study serves as a testament to the drive and success of the 100,000 individuals working in the R&D cluster. They make significant contributions to the economy in our region, but also continue to make discoveries that improve the quality of care in patients around the world. The findings demonstrate how California, and more specifically San Diego, is changing the world."


With the guidance of numerous research institutions including West Health Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, The Scripps Research Institute and many others - completed the most comprehensive analysis on San Diego's research institutions to date.

"This study reinforces the great innovative power of San Diego's research institutes," said Shelley Lyford, president and CEO of the Gary and Mary West Foundation and the Gary and Mary West Health Institute. "In funding this study, we're pleased to be able to show the unexpected size, economic impact and potential growth of San Diego's R&D sector. By working together, collaborating to compete, our research institutions have developed cures for diseases, cutting-edge discoveries and new delivery models for treatment and care of seniors."

Highlights of the report concluded:

  • Research institutions impact roughly 37,000 jobs and have a combined $4.6 billion total impact on the region every year.
  • The $4.6 billion economic impact of research institutions equates to that of six aircraft carriers or 33 U.S. Open Golf Championships every year.
  • Independent research institutes in San Diego receive more NIH (National Institutes of Health) research funding and generate more patents than counterparts in any metro area of the U.S.
  • All scientific R&D, including for-profit enterprises, generates $14.4 billion annually in economic impact-roughly equal to the region's visitor industry. San Diego is the most concentrated R&D market in the U.S.
  • An estimated $1.8 billion in federal and philanthropic research funding flows to the region's research institutions every year.

In order to assess the scale and impact of the cluster, the study looked at independent, non-profit research institutes (e.g. Scripps, J. Craig Venter Institute, West Health) and university research centers (e.g. UC San Diego, San Diego State University), which are collectively referred to as "research institutions" in the study.

Not only do these research institutions drive philanthropic efforts in the region, but they also create job opportunities across a wide-spectrum of skill-levels.

"What is perhaps most impressive is the ripple effect our research institutions have on job opportunities throughout the region," said Mary Walshok, vice chancellor of public programs and dean of extension at UC San Diego, who also served as a study advisor. "This isn't just about high-paid scientists. Our research economy also fuels the demand for good construction, office, technical and management jobs."


As the most concentrated scientific R&D market in the United States and a global leader in innovation, the research institutions also create multiple companies and startups that have a long-lasting impact on the economy and global well-being.

"The San Diego region is truly a powerhouse for research," said Steve Kay, president-elect of The Scripps Research Institute. "Part of the reason The Scripps Research Institute has been so successful as an innovation engine - with more than 50 spin-off companies and nearly 1,000 US patents - is the regional ecosystem that supports discovery, collaboration and entrepreneurship."

An example of this collaboration occurred in late 2014, amid the Ebola epidemic. The Scripps Research Institute Professor Erica Ollman Saphire - whose research centers around Ebola and infectious diseases - contributed to the development of ZMAPP, the innovative therapy from San Diego-based startup MAPP Pharmaceuticals, which was given to multiple missionaries that survived infection.


In order to capitalize on the economic impact and grow San Diego's R&D cluster, the study calls for the following actions and strategies: build supporting coalitions with industry leaders and institutions; drive the economic development opportunities to retain, expand and attract the types of companies and investment our research community needs to compete globally; and address a coalition of research institutions and civic organizations that will be working with key elected officials to advocate for funding and ensure San Diego's research narrative is carried to Sacramento, Washington, D.C. and across the globe.

The economic impact study was supported by a grant from the Gary & Mary West Foundation, with additional sponsorship provided by UC San Diego Extension, The Scripps Research Institute, Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Alexandria Real Estate.

View the executive summary and full study.

CONTACT: Charles Chamberlayne at (619) 453-9911 or [email protected]


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