By Lisa Halverstadt.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other city leaders often tout San Diego’s so-called innovation economy — but just what that encompasses isn’t always so clear.

Tech and innovation jobs get referenced interchangeably, just like startups and small businessesoften are.

Sometimes they’re the same thing. Sometimes they’re not.

But a report on San Diego’s so-called innovation economy footprint, a twice-a-year endeavor by Connect, a regional group that aims to promote and create technology-tied companies, provides a snapshot of what the popular “innovation economy” tag means.

Not all the companies included in the report or in discussions about San Diego’s business climate are necessarily directly tied to new inventions and ideas, though many are. The statistics Connect pulled for its report come from the state Employment Development Department, the National Institutes of Health and the federal Patent and Trademark Office, among other sources. They offer a window into several categories of new tech companies and their employees but they don’t reveal whether all the companies are producing new things.

Connect and other local economic-development leaders use “innovation economy” as an umbrella term to capture businesses focused on everything from biotech and environmental applications to defense and wireless communications. They’re also interchangeably referred to as tech companies.

The mayor and Connect CEO Greg McKee described 2013 as a banner year for new San Diego tech companies, jobs and innovations at a Monday press conference celebrating the release of the Connect report.

San Diego added 412 new technology businesses in 2013, about 30 percent more new companies than it’s welcomed annually since 2011. The sector also saw more than 1,200 new jobs, according to the Connect report.

That made San Diego the fourth-ranked California county for such growth last year.

Graphic courtesy of Connect