A journey around the most innovative cities in the world

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In a world subjected to constant change on the back of the digital revolution, innovation has become essential. This is not only true for the business world, but also for cities. Discover which are the most innovative and competitive cities in the world, and the criteria that have put them at the top.

The world is a whirlpool of permanent transformation resulting from the digital revolution and standing still is a threat to survival. In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, innovation has become a necessity and many businesses already consider it central to their strategy. According to Forbes magazine, innovation is vital for companies because it allows them to penetrate markets quicker, create original concepts, and grow more easily.

But innovation is not only vital in the business world. Today it is also fundamental for the success of a city. The combination of innovation and talent in cities creates higher productivity and greater long-term economic growth. Likewise, cities that combine these two characteristics are also more resilient in the face of economic/financial crises.


According to the Innovation Geographies report published in 2019, which analyses which are the most innovative cities and those with the highest concentration of talent in the world, the main indicators to assess the level of innovation in a city are: Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in hi-tech industries, levels of venture capital, expenditure on Investment and Development, and the number of international patent applications.

Other main indicators to take into account to measure the concentration of talent present in a city are: quality of higher education, standard of education among the population, percentage of population between the ages of 20 and 40, and percentage of jobs in hi-tech industries. In San Francisco, considered to be the most innovative city in the world, and in similar cities elsewhere, a strange paradox is occurring whereby real-estate speculation as a result of the boom is beginning to affect accessibility to housing for that age range.


According to the above criteria, JLL has determined that the five most innovative cities in the world are:

1. San Francisco (U.S.A.)

This is the city that is home to the greatest number of startups in the world. Furthermore, some of the most prestigious universities internationally are based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

2. Tokyo (Japan)

This city produces the highest number of patents in the world. Likewise, it also leads the field in different technologies, from electrical machinery to nano-technology. And it is the headquarters of the greatest number of multinational corporations, like Sony, SoftBank and Toyota.

3. Singapore (Republic of Singapore)

This city is growing in terms of the number of startups and is an important hub for R&D. It is also the world's top destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in hi-tech industries.

4. Beijing (China)

Beijing has a well-entrenched ecosystem of innovation, which has spawned most of the unicorn companies outside Silicon Valley, and it is the world's third highest destination for venture capital finance. Similarly, it is the seventh city in the world for patent applications.

5. London (United Kingdom)

Almost 15% of its labour force is employed in hi-tech. London also occupies the top position in the world as regards concentration of talent, thanks to its first-class universities and highly-educated workforce.

The World's 10 most innovative cities.
The World's 10 most innovative cities.

 SEE INFOGRAPHIC: The World's 10 most innovative cities [PDF] External link, opens in new window.


Every year, strategy and business consultants A.T. Kearney publish the Global Cities Report, which analyses which are the most competitive cities in the world and those with the greatest potential. According to their 2019 report, these are, in this order: New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Los Angeles, Chicago, Beijing and Washington D.C.

Specifically, this report produces its competitiveness ranking according to 27 metrics in 5 categories with different weightings:

 Business activity (30%): capital flows, market dynamics and biggest companies. New York leads in this category.

 Human Capital (30%): educational levels. New York leads in this category also.

 Information exchange (15%): access to information via the Internet and other sources. Paris leads in this category.

 Cultural experience (15%): access to great cultural events. London leads in this category.

 Political engagement (10%): political events, think tanks and embassies. Brussels leads in this category.