What Is The Most Innovative City In The World?

In a previous article we have explored some of the factors that go into making a country innovative, and the important role migration can play in bringing fresh ideas and perspectives into any innovation environment. Cities are the natural melting pot within which much of this takes place. They have long been seen as the ‘engines of innovation’ in a country, as they enable people, ideas and resources to mix and interweave to support the creation of new products, services and processes.

Entrepreneur James Liang highlights the innovative potency of cities in his recent book The Demographics of Innovation. He identifies three core factors that make cities so powerful:

  • The scale factor – We all know about economics of scale in business, but it is equally important for innovation. Large cities tend to have a lot of everything, whether it’s scientists, money or indeed a large local market for testing new ideas on.
  • The agglomeration factor – Many cities have attempted to develop startup clusters or ecosystems to support innovation. Some of these have been discussed in a previous article on the Startup Genome report on innovation clusters, but the logic is that they concentrate key resources in one place. So it’s not enough for cities to have lots of scientists and entrepreneurs if they are scattered to its four corners, they need to be concentrated in innovation hubs.
  • The age factor – This is an interesting one, as Liang argues that the vast majority of innovation occurs when we are in our 30s and 40s. He suggests this is because people at that age have gained a strong education, but are still sufficiently new to their field to have not been weighed down by the status quo. By and large, cities are home to younger people who fit this basic demographic.

So if cities are engines of innovation, are there certain cities that do better than others? An answer might come from a recent study published by job platform Jobbatical in partnership with the University of Cambridge and Launchfield. Jobbatical is a platform that aims to connect up startups located around the world with ‘digital nomads’ who are talented and footloose individuals who enjoy experiencing new places as they work.

The research examined a wide range of factors that render a city attractive for both workers and startups. For founders, London was the indisputable top dog, followed by Singapore, Tallinn, Dubai and Berlin. It was also the top technology and innovation hub in the survey.

Jobbatical founder and CEO Karoli Hindriks commented, “A welcoming and diverse culture is helping Europe to become a major crossroads for global tech. From Lisbon to London, there has never been a stronger, more developed group of tech and innovation hubs within the continent. There is more work to be done to meet the needs of European tech, but the destinations identified in our research are getting a leg up on attracting global talent thanks to a culture of openness and innovation.

The love for London was echoed in a second analysis undertaken by incubator company RocketSpace, which also placed the British city at the top of the charts for startup support. It cited the excellent financial environment, the global talent base, exceptional universities and the social attractions available in London as major reasons why it remains the best place in Europe to start a business. It’s also benefited from government tax incentives that have resulted in a flurry of VC money gushing into the capital to back high profile startups such as DeepMind, MagicPony and Benevolent.

The city has a burgeoning number of startup clusters, including Silicon Roundabout, White City Place, HereEast and King’s Cross, with a growing number of exciting startups working alongside academics from the likes of Imperial College London.

The Startup Genome report on innovation ecosystems around the world identified over 100 exciting and attractive locations for startups, and this level of global competition is fantastic for startups who are increasingly willing to locate wherever is best suited to their long-term success. While traditional heavyweights such as London and Berlin continue to thrive, it is pleasing to see emerging players like Tallinn going toe to toe with them.

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