Vermont, California and Idaho were among the 10 states with the most patent activity in 2011, according to the State Entrepreneurship Index by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Here's what's triggering the innovation.
Engineers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are working on cyber security, nuclear technology and clean tech.
Patents per thousand residents: 3.13
Washington has Microsoft(MSFT), Amazon(AMZN) and Costco(COST) driving patents.
A robust life sciences industry is also firing up innovation.
Three of the 21 drugs approved by the FDA in 2010 were discovered and developed in Seattle, according to Chris Rivera, president of Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association.
Last year, Seattle Genetics(SGEN) became the first company in 30 years to receive FDA approval for a drug to treat Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and medical device maker Mirabilis Medica has developed a handheld ultrasound device approved for use in Europe, said Rivera.
Finally, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, owned by the Department of Energy, employs more than 2,000 scientists and engineers, said Rogers Weed, director with Washington State Department of Commerce. They work on cybersecurity, nuclear technology and clean tech.