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Screenshot of SimCity with purple lines in "Industrial Tech Map"

They only started appearing after the first students arrived in the Community College, so I assume it has to do with the tech level. What does it mean exactly?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Does education spread across cities to increase tech level, and how far?

Tech points are generated at a community college or university as sims enter the doors of the education building. If you turn on the tech dataview, you'll see tech points reaching out from the school to your industry as purple lines, as well as each industry building's accumulated tech points. The purple lines deliver tech points to industry buildings. When enough points are accumulated in a building, that building moves up a tech level.

Also note that a college can only raise buildings to tech 2 whereas universities can get them to tech 3. On the map (if you have both institutions) you will be able to see two different lines being generated (slightly different shades of purple w/ the univ line being above the college line)

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The space station great work also does this. – Tater596 Apr 4 '13 at 12:59
Correct -- the space station is the only way for one city in the region to (indirectly) raise the tech level in another (ie: you will want to have a university in your electronics city to up your electronics production, this means you can research the Space Center great work & and you can save a ton producing your own computers). – user43524 Apr 4 '13 at 15:49

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