Want Innovation? Move to these cities

From the Innovation Cities Program

Boston was again ranked the top city of the global innovation economy in volatile economic conditions,  according to Australian consulting innovation analysts, 2thinknow.

2thinknow developed the index in 2007 for start-up businesses, creatives and cities to determine their cities relative performance in the global innovation economy. Top-ranked cities may have better economic opportunities for all of us, due to their innate innovation economics building future industries for employment and community services.

This year, Paris and Amsterdam contested the top spot with Boston, being ranked second and third, respectively, in the 2thinknow Innovation Cities Top 100 Index. Since 2009 Vienna has moved to fourth place and New York to fifth place. The cities of Frankfurt, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Lyon and Hamburg, rounded out the top ten places. Australia’s strong relative economy was represented by Melbourne and Sydney, placed 19th and 28th respectively.

The top 100 cities were ranked from 289 cities scored, compared with 256 cities with last year.  Scored cities were classified in five groupings for their importance to the innovation economy. Nexus cities dominate the globally innovation economy across many sectors, followed by hub cities. Node and influencer cities have regional industry influence on innovation, so whether these were ideal places to live and work was based more on choice of industry.


The underlying index methodology was scored based on measuring 31 common industry and community segments weighted against global trends. This was reduced to a 3 factor score out of 10 measuring the cultural assets, human infrastructure and networked markets of an innovation economy. The complex process of scoring cities included the analysts assessment of the market confidence of the cities, to form a final city ranking.

Of the 289 cities considered, 282 were categorized, with 30 hub cities, 65 nexus cities, 162 node cities, 20 influencer cities and 5 upstarts. The final classification of upstart cities were identified as having future potential for innovation and included often over-looked cities of Minsk, Tirana and Montevideo.

Top-scoring Boston scored a total of 29 out of 30 across all 3 factors. To be identified as a nexus in the global innovation economy, cities needed an index score of 25 or above. Entrants that rose rapidly since 2009, included Hong Kong (now, 18), Shanghai (24) and Munich (15).These cities represented innovation performance at a global level and across many sectors of the innovation economy, with fewer negatives than hub cities.

Many competing cities scored a competitive score of 22 which was enough for them to make the bottom five of the top hundred cities. These cities identified as an innovation node included Belgrade, Atlanta and Moscow based on regional or industry performance. An example of node cities industry focus was Adelaide, an Australian city ranked outside the top 100, yet influential in the global wine-making industry.

The index measured innovation across the economy and community compared with current trends. The index relied on measuring cultural assets, and infrastructure rather than counting patents or research spending.


Overall, 19 United States cities and 6 Canadian cities made up 25 of the 27 cities in the top 100. The other 2 top-ranked cities in the Americas region were Buenos Aires (98) and São Paulo (94).

Canadian cities were well-represented after named nexus city Toronto, with Montréal (34), Calgary (71), Québec (74), Vancouver (75) and Edmonton (95) all named as hub cities. Other Canadian cities were scored in the larger 289 city global index.

The United States had 5 nexus cities named. Besides Boston, New York and San Francisco, the cities of Washington D.C. (23) and Philadelphia (30) were announced as nexus cities. There were 14 U.S. hub cities named: Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis-St Paul, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, Raleigh-Durham, Springfield Mass., Pittsburgh, Portland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Baltimore and Atlanta.

In South America, Brazil’s Curitiba and Rio De Janeiro as well as Mexico City,  were just outside the top 100 cities.


European cities continue to dominate amongst the top 30 cities in the index. Germany had the most nexus cities overall with Berlin (11), Stuttgart (13), Munich (15) and Düsseldorf (25) joining Frankfurt and Hamburg. London ranked 15th this year, a fall of nine places. Copenhagen rose to 8th place, with Lyon (9), Milan (16) and Stockholm (17) rising compared with 2009. Overall French and U.K. cities were highly ranked among the node cities.

In East Europe, Prague (29) was named a nexus city, with Budapest (61) the next top ranked Eastern capital, followed by Russia’s Saint Petersburg (84) also named a hub city.


Asia’s top city this year was Hong Kong (18) followed by Melbourne (19). Based on current trends, these were followed by Japan’s Tokyo (20) and Kyoto (22). Major Asian centers Shanghai (24) and  Seoul (27), entered then global top nexus cities for the first time ahead of nexus city  Sydney (28).

This year hub cities from Asia were Singapore (31), Wellington (48) and Auckland (51), Beijing (53) and Japan’s Fukoaka (52), Kobe (88) and Osaka (93). The rise of Asian centers was largely attributed by the analysts, to renewed rail and infrastructure investment by Asian cities.


In the emerging world, Abu Dhabi and Dubai were the top cities, both named as hub cities. These were followed by Cape Town in South Africa, which scored just outside the top 100 with Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

In the 289 city global index in the emerging region of the Mid-East, Caucasus and Africa, the cities of Casablanca, Doha, Riyadh, Kuwait City, Kiev, Manama, Johannesburg and Minsk were all scored. Tel Aviv in Israel ranked 50th, but was classified in the European region with Turkish city Istanbul and also, Jerusalem.

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