Vermont Science and Technology Plan
|Vermont Science and Technology Plan|
|Has title||Vermont Science and Technology Plan|
|Has owner||Ed Egan|
|Has start date|
|Has deadline date|
|Has project status||Active|
|Has project output||Tool, Data, Content|
|Copyright © 2019 edegan.com. All Rights Reserved.|
On Friday, April 8th 2022, two UVM administrators presented a draft of the 2022 Vermont Science and Technology Plan on behalf of the Vermont Technology Council, which is currently chaired by David Bradbury, founder of VCET.
On Thursday, April 14th, I returned to the public comment form to find it closed.
The Final report was released in May 2022 and endorsed by Secretary of ACCD Lindsay Kurrle.
Census data would be relevant to the report in a number of places. This section provides two examples.
Example 1: Quantifying the Vermont Technology Sector
The report states (p1):
The numbers tell an interesting story. The number of technology firms operating in Vermont grew dramatically from 2,367 in 2010 to 3,772 in 2020, an increase of almost 40% (see Figure 1)... ...Although the size of these industries remains small in comparison to larger states, the growth in these sectors is indicative of Vermont’s growing position as a digital technology hub. In addition, the number of science and technology-related occupations in such areas as software engineers and computer and data scientists, jumped by 3% to 12% over this 10-year period
The source of the data for these claims and Figure 1 is "JobsEQ": https://www.chmura.com/software. The figure shows an annual average growth rate of technology firms of 5% (compounding to 60% over ten years). The scaling of the axis makes it look more dramatic. I originally thought that this was "not impossible" (though obviously very suspicious) based on state-level growth rates for venture-backed startups. However, the 'Relative Growth' analysis below clarifies that this is well outside the bounds of possibility at the state level for the technology sector as a whole for any prolonged period. It also confirms the stylized fact that the number of technology firms declined for the US as a whole over this period.
The Business Dynamics Statistics data from the U.S. Census is the standard data source for entry and exit and is available at the state-NAICS2 level from 1978 to 2019 (an update is due). There are numerous well-documented issues with using BDS, including that it measures establishments, not firms, and that the Census restricts access to sparse data. See the American Community Survey (ACS) Data page for related information.
- Retrieve data from api.census.gov using E:\projects\census\get_BDS.py
- Variable list: https://api.census.gov/data/timeseries/bds/variables.html
- Load and process using E:\projects\census\Load_BDS.sql
- High-tech is defined at a coarse-grain as NAICS 31-33 (Manufacturing), 42 (Professional Services), and 51 (Information) (see the NSF high-tech NAICS codes).
- Export to excel (E:\projects\Vermont\VTCAnalysisGraphs.xlsx) and create the graph.
The findings are:
- The BDS data shows a marked decline in technology sector firms and employment beginning around 2001, as was expected for Vermont.
- Vermont technology sector employment reached a record low in 2010 and is yet to make a meaningful recovery.
- The JobsEQ data has unknown providence and sampling criteria. It shows the number of technology firms at around the same level as the Census data in 2010 but then JobsEQ data shows dramatic growth while the Census data shows a material contraction. The most likely explanation is that the JobsEQ data is not correctly recording establishment exits.
- The Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET) was founded in 2005, before the major collapse of Vermont's technology sector between 2006 and 2010.
It is interesting to look at Vermont's relative growth in technology establishments and employment:
- The data was retrieved in bulk from https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/time-series/econ/bds/bds-datasets.html and downloaded by sector and state from 1978 to 2020.
- State codes are available in https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/bds/technical-documentation/label_state.csv
- Files are E:\projects\census\BDS Bulk Analysis
- SQL script is BulkAnalysis.sql
I processed the data so that each state's establishments and employment are relative to their year 2000 levels. The establishments' data makes it clear that the Vermont Science and Technology Plan's numbers are patently absurd. They show Vermont with a growth rate of 59% from 2010 to 2020, which is more than 2.6 times the fastest growth rate achieved by the fastest-growing state (Delaware) over the same period. Vermont's actual establishments' growth rate was -4% for this period (ranking 28th), which was below the median (-3%) and well below the mean (-2%). Vermont's technology sector employment trends are even worse. Technology sector employment in Vermont was more than a quarter lower in 2020 than it was in 2000, and Vermont's twenty-year growth rate ranks 44th.
The technology establishments and employment peaked for the entire US during the dot-com boom. Then they fell precipitously until around 2010 when they stabilized into a more gentle decline. Only three jurisdictions have grown more than 10% over the last decade - Washington D.C., Nevada, and Delaware. And America's three most productive states, California, Texas, and New York, which account for almost a third of American GDP and a quarter of its population, all experienced mild to moderate declines.
Example 2: Quantifying the Vermont Manufacturing Sector
The report later states (p4):
Advanced Manufacturing. Vermont has been a leader in advanced manufacturing dating back to the Industrial Revolution when the town of Springfield was known nationally as “Precision Valley” because of the cluster of precision manufacturing firms in the area. ... Supported in part by the efforts of the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC), the Advanced Manufacturing Collaborative, and the Vermont Technical College (VTC), Vermont is home to a new advanced manufacturing training center... These investments, made possible by Senator Leahy, anchor the state’s ability to train technicians to support the growth of the advanced manufacturing sector in Vermont.
Restricting the data to just NAICS 31-33 shows that manufacturing in Vermont:
- Reached an apex around 1998-2000 in terms of both jobs and establishments.
- Is now at its lowest level on record for employment and near a 40 year for the number of establishments.
- Declined around five years after the creation of the VMEC.
Grant data would be useful in several places in the report. For example, the report states (p5):
There are a number of networks supporting the bioscience industry in Vermont. For instance, the UVM Center for Biomedical Innovation serves as a space to incubate new biosciences technologies, while the work of the Vermont Biomedical Research Network (VBRN) connects the bioscience research community to industry.
It later states (p6):
...Vermont has one of the highest Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding rates per GDP in the country (see Figure 2). Our flagship research university, UVM, has recently cracked the top 100 public universities for research, while the Vermont Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and VBRN continue to facilitate network ties between research facilities across the state.
I had Federal Grant Data from the NIH to hand from another project and updated it to 2021. It shows that:
- UVM and non-UVM NIH grants combined were at record low levels in 2017 and were at their second-lowest level on record in 2021.
- UVM averaged around 150 NIH grants per year until about 2010. From 2011 to the present, it has averaged closer to 100 grants per year.
- The total value of NIH grants to UVM also fell in 2011 but has increased somewhat in the last 5 years.
- Non-UVM NIH grants experienced a boom from 2006 to 2016 but are now back to near-zero levels.
See also: UVM Cancer Center
Ranking Vermont's VC
I pulled data from the US Startup City Ranking project, which also provides state rankings, and draws data from VCDB20 to make some graphs showing Vermont's VC over time. Vermont's VC is so small that it is dwarfed by year-to-year national variation, which is one or two orders of magnitude larger. So, as much as we might want Vermont to be something, it is currently very much a rounding error. Its state rank has mostly oscillated between 35 and 40. Its current contemporary states include Alabama, Louisianna, Montana, and Idaho, none of which can be considered successful for their entrepreneurship. Its five-year moving average rank suggests that Vermont's most recent peak was 10 years ago.