How to Build a City Centred on Innovation
Lessons from the Innovation Cities Index 2022-2023, and beyond. How you can create a more dynamic, innovation-focussed city that is the envy of friends and foes alike right now.
FROM CHRISTOPHER’S DESK
So many questions we get about innovation focus on how to do it.
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Do you just build an incubator (2010s) and it happens?
Attract lots of start-ups (late 2010s)?
Attract foreign investment/ FDI (every decade)?
Copy Dublin and do the low tax rates?
What about attracting young, diverse people (the Richard Florida model)?
Or low-cost manufacturing until you move up the value chain (Asian tigers?)
Or something else??
In 2005-2007 I studied cities like Vienna, Boston, Paris, New York, San Francisco and others who seem to have ‘done it’. And I derived a number of lessons. (Yes, what worked then, doesn’t work exactly the same now.)
But add in Singapore, Dubai, Barcelona for some modern iterations. Then Miami, DFW, Shenzhen, Austin, etc.
Now the Mid-East is challenging U.S. cities. Since when did that happen? Is it permanent? What are the key take-aways. There is a lot to unpack.
But for a start - note our Index often picks up ‘Cool city’ innovator status before almost anyone else.
Boston 2009, London 2012, Toronto 2010s, Austin 2010s, etc.
Mayor at the time Thomas Menino did a great job - but when we said that, Boston Globe newspaper phoned me, and said it’s ‘not true’. Sort of. Then they interviewed me about the link to coffee shops. They since archived the article (which is over 10 years ago now). But I am sure I have a copy somewhere.
In any case, a lot of folks said “Boston?”
Yet now it’s widely accepted.
I recently saw folks (2021 Jaideep Prabhu) using Menino as a case study. Which he is. Prabhu makes some good points.
But if you copy 2009 Menino, you get 2009 results.
Isn’t that risky? Wouldn’t it be safer to copy proven strategies from later periods?
Ones that no one has noticed (well, except 2ThinkNow) yet.
By the time most universities catch-up you are already out of date.
Universities too often just explain why the past was the past.
Also case studies London, or New York. (remember when mostly only Swiss, Canadian and cold weather Scandi cities did well?)
But do these case studies scale to your size? Your rules? Your culture?
See, you have to think about all these things. It’s not one answer.
Continual Study - Japanese, Kaizen
And the Innovation Cities™ Index is an exercise in continual study. We just published one. It’s a load of work. You have no idea.
I must literally be insane to attempt it. But, well…
Over 180 countries download it each year. Please do.
You probably just want the answer. A simple answer. A one action answer.
That would be a wrong answer.
You can look at the results for what the data is showing.
It’s showing Paris and London back up again. Yes, even with Hidalgo’s bike lanes. Even with Macron’s pension reform. Even with the British revolving PM fiasco.
You may be ‘reallllly?’
But that’s the same reaction we get every year. Then fast forward two + years, and often all the other rankings catch-up and follow us.
Who is Hot?
So yes, Tokyo, perennial #1. Yes Dubai. Yes Doha. Yes Jeddah. All fast movers.
Stuff is happening in these places. Melbourne’s back again, despite the best efforts to kill it with lockdowns. Sydney’s ahead, but just barely.
In Europe, Munich is finally getting things sorted. Finally modernising approach. No more old-fashioned whiff of boys club as much.
Madrid likewise has moved forward. Barcelona is back, but rarely beaten by Madrid.
Copenhagen, Dublin, Lisbon. All have something shaking.
World in Chaos
Yes, the world is wobbly. Yes, the inflation tiger is eating us. Yes, our political world leaders seem adrift in boats of their own ego and hubris.
But when was this not the case?
When was the world not a total mess?
Let’s just focus on local.
The basic principle is the same.
Try lots of stuff. Keep what works.
That insight was in Built to Last by Collins and Porras.
But knowing what stuff is worth your focus. That’s the skill.
The answers are all in the data.
Please scan our latest world’s most innovative cities 500 city results, and download the Excel here. Look for the clues.
Purchase our analysis package at a special price, on this year’s results.
Or reach out to get in touch and get answers.
You too can drive innovation in your firm or city!
And, wouldn’t it be easier if someone had analysed 500 cities worldwide for you, and figured out all the answers first? Don’t be shy asks us - free call.
Meanwhile, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em - or just keep innovating!
Innovation Cities™ Gazette is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber (charts, extras!)