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Which is the No 1 city in the world right now? Why?
One of our most frequently asked questions. The answer seems easy? But it depends. So who are the contender cities who could win? And on what basis this should be decided? Whats the 2023 answer?
So we should know this one.
As publishers of the largest and longest running city index of it’s kind.
For the 2023 answer (^ soon ^), you can just subscribe to this substack for updates.
That’s because the new Innovation Cities™ Index 2022-2023 is releasing soon.
For the historical answer to this question:
In 2021, Tokyo was named the world’s most innovative city. That is according to the Innovation Cities™ Index. Established 2007, the city ranking ranks 500 global cities for innovation.
The city ranking covers over 31 industry and policy areas, consulting 162 indicators. Indicators are based on quantitative data points.
This is the most diverse city ranking spanning the greatest number criteria among rankings.
Further historical winners of the Index have included London, New York, Boston and Vienna (early rankings). These cities are still often in contention to be #1.
So the Index measures 162 indicators X 500 cities to derive an answer.
What about other city rankings?
But outside our headline Index these cities tend to be regarded as ‘very successful’ or #1 by many people. On what basis?
There are lot’s of models out there and ideas regarding how a city is #1.
For the more detailed consideration, let’s look at other common basis’ for discussion.
Towards Measuring a Global #1 City
Well, the first basis is documented population.
Large cities are popular cities that people migrate to for economic opportunity, to meet partners and to raise families. Large cities would not keep gorwing if they did not deliver on their promises.
This is why Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Detroit are no longer the booming metropolises they once were. Although cities can ‘re-surge’ or be ‘right-sized’. But on a population basis they are no longer growing and attracting people.
On a size basis some folks would say Chongqing, in China would be among the biggest - but this is more province than a city in size. It does not meet this high growth model.
(Often the density levels of some cities is more inline with states or provinces.)
Other Asian Cities & Definitions
Other Asian cities like Tokyo, Seoul, Mumbai, Delhi and also Dhaka, Bangladesh have to make population based lists. And are more traditionally dense in centric circles. They also continue to grow in many ways.
(There are secrets to that growth, more on that later)
But economic development level - especially in the case of Dhaka, matters.
In the West, the New York metro area which includes large slabs of other US states like New Jersey is often ranked well. The ‘Big Apple’ of New York doesn’t mean just the Manhattan Island or even the five boroughs.
And New York lost a lot of population even starting before the pandemic, although the city is bouncing back rapidly on many measures.
London and Paris are smaller in numbers, but similarly expansive in population feel.
And you can then get into debates about what is the actual resident or other working day or night time population of cities?
Populated developed cities like London, Paris and greater New York often do well. Large day/night populations create a buzz and a ‘network effect’. Sprawling metropolises that are less developed such as Dhaka or Karachi, less so.
So a city should generally be large to be #1. Or should it?
Cities by Liveability?
What about liveability? An oft-quoted metric which doesn’t actually measure how neat a place is is to live. But actually measures expat hardship instead. (Look it up).
Well, based on the fine folks rankiongs at the Economist and Mercer, that includes contenders of more boutique cities like Melbourne, Vienna, Vancouver, Auckland, Sydney.
Generally under the 5 million threshold these are smaller more compact cities.
And yet for a long time Swiss and Scandinavian cities dominated these lists. The Scandi cities were seen as socialist utopias. Until they weren’t.
Of course, Scandi cities do pretty well in our index, being inside the top 10% often.
Recently though Stockholm in Sweden, and others, have generally quietly walked back more harsh left-ist socialism for a form of left-wing capitalism.
So, in the end, liveability however you define it matters.
How about Design Cities or Cool Cities?
Scandinavian design and practical thinking like Dutch bikes culture drives these lists, with Amsterdam, Helsinki, Copenhagen and Oslo all taking turns.
Reykjavik is regularly called cool. Munich, also.
Malmo for the more offbeat.
Opinion contests named the beautiful and redeveloped Medellin. And Tel Aviv.
Cool though is a matter of opinion and hard to measure. Cool, like fashion, is decreed.
The improbably cool folks at Monocle magazine (and others) regularly publish lists of which cities are ‘cool’ (in their opinion, which may differ from yours).
So Munich and Reykjavik, and some Australian cities do pretty well here.
But can smaller cities also do well? Even micro-cities?
Yes. Micro-cities like Newcastle in NSW, Vermont (Maine) and Hobart (Tasmania) recently did well on opinion based lists. Like those of the Lonely Planet, Amex or Gourmet Traveller lists. These are general small lists compiled by journalists or wtiers without much numerical basis. But they are interesting.
To be honest, there is a definite vibe in Newcastle and Hobart at times. Hobart, for example, has a great food scene. And some of the nicest folks anywhere (I did part of my University there at UTas).
Micro-cities have an offbeat charm. And usually, some good craft beer.
And yes, craft beer kind of matters. Not because it’s beer*. But because it goes hand-in-hand with small-to-medium enterprises and dynamic start-up clusters.
And in many micro-cities people have to work harder to access global markets due to distance, making success more long-term.
If you succeed globally like some creative professionals from Wellington, Christchurch or Hobart - you have overcome the tyranny of distance.
You could then likely succeed almost anywhere.
This grit and creative impulse, is why New Zealand software companies have done so well despite the distance.
Yep, New Zealand dev teams have to try harder. Makes them tougher.
*(Not arguing beer is an input to innovation, but that there is a correlation between independent business and entrepreneurship. Micro-breweries form part of that.)
Larger but charming - Austin, Texas has been winning startup migrations from Californian capitals like San Francisco and San Jose.
Likewise, Boise (Idaho), Boston, Tel Aviv and even Goteborg (Sweden) pop up on these startup lists.
Recently London has built a massive start-up cluster, and is arguably eclipsing Silicon Valley in sheer volume. Though not on financial success measures (i.e. gross revenue across all startups year-on-year).
San Francisco is fighting back though with AI startups. More than 6.75 Billion USD has been raised by 100+ AI startups in the Bay Area, a large slice in San Fran proper.
London’s West End is building a great AI cluster as well. And Tel Aviv has some skills in this area, alongside Boston and NYC.
But perhaps we have reached peak college ‘start-up’. These really are growing AI companies, run by serious folk, not quite two kids and a laptop startups that many incubators chase.
(But you want to bet the AI data shows up in the 2022-2023 Index winners.)
Perhaps the answer is a balanced criteria. Not one criteria but a cluster of criteria.
We certainly think so, that’s why the Innovation Cities™ Index was built the way it was. With 162 indicators in 3 Factors.
How to Balance the Criteria?
So it may seems there is no way to balance all these and more divergent threads in a given year. Except there is.
It is innovation. Innovation is the only way forward.
In the Innovation Cities™ Index, innovation accounts for and balances:
Network effects of population
Liveability (in both it’s cost of living and popular sense)
Design and planning
Mobility and transport
Travel and Tourism
Nascent Tech from AI to Metaverse
And much more
Making it the most balanced and diverse city ranking (who else ranks important cities you have never heard of?). Using those 162 indicators of goodness.
Excitingly, the Innovation Cities™ Index for 2022-2023 launches very soon.
Stay subscribed here or on the annual channel to know.
So we ask: Who will be the world’s number 1 city this year?
Watch this space…
Image credit: Ralph Hutter on Unsplash
Innovation Cities™ Gazette helps you to craft policies and products for city innovation. Also you will find out the city winner via email!