Oct. 7, 2005--The small businesses that employ almost half of the country's workers may also be responsible for the nation's technical creativity and innovation.

A report released Monday by the U.S. Small Business Administration found that private companies with fewer than 500 workers generate as many as 14 more patentsper employee than large businesses.

"The data suggests that small businesses are leaner, meaner, and more focused on brining a particular technology forward," said Chuck Wessner, director of Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the National Academy of Sciences.

Part of the reason for small businesses' share of the patent market is their ability to attract the talent to produce the patents, according to a 2004 study conducted by CHI Research for the SBA.

Small firms were particularly attractive to "elite innovators," scientists and engineers with 10 or more patents within a two-year period.

The SBA study also found that small business patents are twice as likely to appear among those most often cited by inventors as stepping-stones for their work.

Despite the SBA's findings, the U.S. Patent Office has launched Small Business Education Campaign to envelope more small businesses into its fold. At the start of the spring 2005 campaign, the USPO claimed that only 15% of small businesses were aware that their U.S. patents do not extend overseas, making them vulnerable to intellectual property theft.

Meanwhile, large companies have long pursued patents to ensure their success and protect intellectual property. "IBM has had the most patents for several years now, and had about 3,000 granted last year," Tony Breitzman of 1790 Analytics, an intellectual property consulting firm.