Population > 543,000
Leading indicator > The University of Wisconsin at Madison spends more on R&D than Stanford, MIT, or Harvard
Fast companies > Promega; Third Wave Technologies; EMD Biosciences
Biotech bastion of the breadbasket. The University of Wisconsin employs about 50 stem-cell researchers, has one of the top tech-transfer programs in the nation, and is sinking $150 million in state and private money into its Institutes of Discovery. That has helped seed more than 100 life-sciences firms in surrounding Dane County.