Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Will London Be the Most Innovative City in the World?

Image source: slickzine.com

In many ways, we have cities to be thankful for much of what humankind has achieved. Cities play to our strengths as social creatures. They encourage collaboration, creativity and innovation. Cities give off a certain kind of energy, and you don’t feel that in the suburbs or in the countryside.

There’s also a competitive element between cities. One accolade that’s becoming increasingly sought after among modern cities is innovation. In a Business Insider article listing the 18 most innovative cities, Drake Baer points out that indeed, many modern metros are pushing the limits of industry, design and urban planning. Rethinking the way people live and work and going against the grain of ‘business as usual’. The cities that feature on the list are a diverse bunch and include Singapore, Amsterdam, Bangalore, London, Helsinki, Hong Kong, San Jose, Vienna, Copenhagen, Rio de Janeiro, Medellin, Cape Town, Vancouver, Santiago, Dubai, Tokyo, Munich and Seoul.

These cities were chosen according to metrics such as patents per capita and skyscraper height. Their ‘innovative’ initiatives are far-reaching and demonstrate the breadth of innovation as a common denominator. For example, Amsterdam is the most bike-friendly, with 38 per cent of all trips in the city made by bicycle. Hong Kong has twice the number of skyscrapers than any other city. Rio de Janeiro is leading the way in becoming a ‘smart city’, letting residents use smartphones to alert the city to infrastructure issues. Santiago is one of the most entrepreneur-friendly cities in the world, having recently launched Startup Chile, an accelerator program that seeks to attract early stage, high-potential entrepreneurs to Chile.

London was highlighted in a recent article on Wired, subsequent to an event in Boston that brought together high-ranking diplomats and business leaders to discuss how innovation can increase productivity and income opportunities through cross-border innovation. The article posed the question – is London becoming the world’s greatest city for innovation? It certainly has taken major steps for it to be so.

London is a frontrunner in the innovation stakes, mobilizing a strong and quite deliberate push for innovation-driven business development. The ambitions of London Mayor Boris Johnson are certainly just that – ambitious, with his plan for London to become ‘The Greatest City on Earth’.

The Mayor isn’t alone – the business community is also behind him with initiatives and programmes aimed at strengthening economic growth. For example, City Hall’s Smart London Plan, a development platform that focuses on broad digital inclusion, significant investment in technology companies and more support for businesses that actively pursue innovation. London is also part of the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program, which encourages innovation-driven entrepreneurship and helps regions around the world promote economic development and job creation.

So will London become the greatest city on earth or more specifically, the world’s greatest city for innovation? It’s got some competition, but I’d say it will certainly be in the running.

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