Over the years, the growing availability of extensive datasets about registered patents allowed researchers to get a deeper insight into the drivers of technological innovation. In this work, we investigate how patents’ technological contents characterise metropolitan areas’ development and how innovation is related to GDP per capita. Exploiting worldwide data from 1980 to 2014, and through network-based techniques that only use information about patents, we identify coherent distinguished groups of metropolitan areas, either clustered in the same geographical area or similar in terms of their economic features. Moreover, we extend the notion of coherent diversification to patent production and show how it is linked to the economic growth of metropolitan areas. Our findings draw a picture in which technological innovation can play a key role in the economic development of urban areas. We contend that the tools introduced in this paper can be used to further explore the interplay between urban growth and technological innovation.