What Cities Need to Become More Innovative

The world is producing scientific output and technology breakthroughs at a faster rate than ever before. The barriers to research, publishing, and launching a startup company have fallen considerably. New entrepreneurs can access funding through more channels, and with crowdfunding, they don’t always have to look for a big investor to back their vision. Some cities are producing much more innovation than others, and there are good reasons for that. Most innovation comes from science and technology hubs in cities. Here, we look at how the most innovative cities in the United States are setting the pace.

What It Takes to Be an Innovative City

Every year, various publications release lists of the most innovative cities, the best places for scientists to work, or the best place to launch a tech startup. Many cities feature on all these lists year after year. There are a number of factors that influence how innovative a city is, and these factored into the rankings.

Most innovative cities have at least three things in common. Firstly, they have plenty of educational programs and science and technology institutions and hubs. Many university graduates launch startups immediately after and even during their school days. Science post-doctoral researchers are also highly sought after at pharmaceutical and medical companies that are leading the race to treat and eliminate some of the diseases and infections that still affect large sections of the population. When a city makes educational opportunities a priority, this nurtures the next generation of great minds and world-changers in the science and tech space.

Another important factor that affects a city’s level of innovation is how attractive that city is to new talent. Young people, and even the more mature in society, flock to areas that have good work opportunities, an exciting vibe, and enough entertainment and recreational activities. Cities that are focused on generally being great places to live get an influx of millennials with bright new ideas.

A third factor is the right kind of environment to nurture the innovation at whatever stage it is. This covers many factors such as the availability of partnership opportunities and the cost of starting up a business and launching a product. Life science innovators know that Massachusetts is a great hub for this field, while a tech innovator may drift to the Silicon Valley.

According to data firm 2thinknow, which produces an annual list of rankings of the most innovative cities in the world, there are a number of key indicators of innovative cities. The three most important factors the firm assesses are the cultural assets, human infrastructure, and networked markets.

Global Rankings

In 2thinknow’s 2018 list of the most innovative cities globally, the highest-ranking U.S. cities were San Francisco-San Jose, California and the Silicon Valley area at number three, New York City, New York at number four, Los Angeles, California at number five, and Boston Massachusetts at number seven. Outside the United States, there is Tokyo, Japan at number one on the list as the most innovative city in the world, London, the United Kingdom at number two, and Singapore, Singapore at number six.

Looking at where some of these cities are getting it right, there are some important highlights. Boston and the Greater Boston area have the highest concentration of life science researchers in the nation, and this comes from the great focus on higher education. The Silicon Valley as a technology hub and growing center of life science innovation leads the nation in the number of patents. This demonstrates the impact of innovation incubators. New York has many public-private partnerships that help to expedite innovation and promote a startup culture.


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