AI may be the next big tech innovation, and Dallas-Fort Worth is way behind

If artificial intelligence is to help drive the innovation economy, as many believe, Dallas-Fort Worth has a long way to go.

A report by researchers at the Brookings Institution, released Wednesday, maps the geography of AI by ranking metropolitan areas on jobs, companies, patents, federal research contracts, and research papers related to the field.

“Which cities will lead the artificial intelligence revolution? The report demand.

D-FW doesn’t break the first, second, or even third level of major subways, according to Brookings’ analysis.

The first three levels have a total of 36 subways with San Jose and San Francisco at the top, easily controlling the emerging AI landscape.

For example, the San Jose area generated more than 50 times more patents per million workers than D-FW. San Jose had 19 times the number of AI companies per million workers, and research and development dollars per worker were eight times higher in San Jose, according to the report.

The Silicon Valley “superstar” metropolitan area is followed by 13 early-adopters, including Austin and its longtime rivals Dallas, New York, Los Angeles and Washington.

The next level of leadership includes 21 research centers that win major federal contracts. This group has many cities anchored in major research universities, including College Station, home to Texas A&M University, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Iowa City, Iowa.

D-FW is in the fourth tier, 87 cities with some AI activity, but less than average. These are called “potential adoption centers” and include some of the largest shopping malls in the country, such as Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, and San Antonio.

Dallas often ranks first in many economic indicators, such as job growth and business relocations. For most of the year, it was ranked as the country’s best job market by ThinkWhy, a software services company, and it is among the leaders in recovering job losses from a pandemic.

But it’s an AI laggard, a weakness reminiscent of D-FW’s past struggles to produce enough tech talent. One of the reasons Dallas didn’t win the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters is that it couldn’t quite match the depth and breadth of tech workers in other bigs. subways.

Washington and New York prevailed in Amazon’s draw, and they had a significant advantage over tech workers.

The North Texas region ranks poorly in terms of AI research metrics, including universities winning federal AI grants and private companies winning federal AI research contracts, said Marc Muro, lead author of the report. D-FW ranks even lower on AI patents and academic papers presented at AI conferences.

“It’s not just any old tech, and you really need a pretty in-depth department geared towards that kind of science,” said Muro, Principal Investigator and Director of Policy at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. “The region is hampered by the lack of major research activities” related to AI.

It hurts in two ways, he said, “Technology development is likely being delayed, and your pipeline of top-quality AI talent is also limited.”

Dallas has “a pretty decent flow of AI hires and job postings, given the circumstances,” Muro said. “But the region will have to determine whether it wants to be a player here, and that will require investment.”

North Texas has worried about keeping up with technology – and tech education – for decades. The state has helped fund large expansions in higher education, including at the University of Texas at Dallas, UT-Arlington, and the University of North Texas. And the schools have made real progress.

Local universities produce more graduates, including in technology fields. They also attracted more federal research funding, enough to entice taxpayers and lawmakers to devote more state money to university research.

Artificial intelligence is often used to describe a wide range of digital systems capable of sensing their environment and learning, thinking, predicting and drawing conclusions from what they are feeling, according to the Brookings report. It’s already used by streaming services to recommend movies, by voice recognition systems to help customer service, to improve fraud detection in finance, and to improve medical diagnostics.

“When a Tesla roadster goes ‘hands-free’ on the freeway, it’s AI,” the report said, noting that AI requires advanced uses of statistics, algorithms and rapid computer processing.

Since 2000, immigrants have accounted for 40 percent of job growth in Texas, helping to fuel a strong economy.

Federally funded AI projects remain a small share of total research funding, but they have been increasing rapidly in recent years. AI marketings follow a similar trend.

“AI is increasingly seen as one of the next great ‘general purpose technologies’ – one with the power to transform sector after sector of the entire economy,” the report said.

This prompted leaders across the country to explore the potential impact of AI on economic growth. Several regions have started to evaluate their results, and that is part of the reason Brookings undertook their study.

While Dallas hasn’t stood out, it has the potential to improve dramatically, Muro said. This is in part because so many prominent private companies are based here.

Airlines, retailers, energy companies, financial services companies, and engineering firms will need more AI expertise, and they will look nearby first. They should be eager, he said, to work with colleges to develop AI specializations and cutting-edge solutions tailored to their markets.

“AI is, in many ways, the next evolution in the digital economy,” Muro said. “There has to be a credible and constant flow of AI professionals in place. Dallas will have to find a way to locate this talent.

Madison Kitchen, behind her desk, hosts a meeting in her Lumos Marketing Group office in Far North Dallas.  As of July, the Dallas-Plano-Irving subway division had recovered nearly 99% of the jobs lost during the pandemic - long before the national recovery.
The University of Texas at Arlington has worked for over a decade to achieve a prestigious state research title that only three other schools in Texas can boast, including the University of Texas at Dallas, the University of Houston and Texas Tech University.
A mother walks with her children after her son's first day back at ED Walker Middle School in Dallas.  Texas' under-18 population has grown 6% over the past decade, but that number has declined by 2% in Dallas County, according to recent census data.
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About Christopher Easley

Christopher Easley

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