• The Innovation Cities Index looks at 500 to find the best ones for start-ups
  • New York is the best in the world for innovation to thrive
  • Tokyo placed second and London third
  • 5 of the top 10 cities for innovation are in the US

All around the world, enterprising start-ups and business giants are busy developing new ideas that could change the world. But which cities provide the best framework and conditions for innovation to thrive?

The Innovation Cities Index 2019 compares the actual performance of 500 cities to find the best places for new ideas to be brought to life.

These are the 10 most innovative cities in the world.

The world's most innovative cities
US cities dominate the list

10. Toronto

Canada’s largest city is a centre for artificial intelligence, with new tech for sectors ranging from retail to healthcare attracting major investment. A wealth of talent and programmes promoting public-private partnerships have contributed to the city’s success.

Toronto skyline.
Toronto has become a hub for AI innovation.
Image: Reuters/Mark Blinch

9. San Francisco-San Jose

The San Francisco Bay Area boasts a vibrant start-up scene. It is also home to some of the giants of the tech world, including Google, Facebook and Apple. The city dropped 6 places down this year’s index, from 3rd last year.

8. Boston

One of five US cities to make it into this year’s top 10, Boston has one of the country’s fastest-growing tech sectors. As well as a thriving robotics industry, the area is home to companies specializing in web content and analytics.

The setting sun reflects off the Boston skyline across the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., June 27, 2017.
Boston is one of five US cities in the top 10
Image: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

7. Chicago

As a new entry into the top 10, Chicago has a unique approach to attracting and retaining talent. Instead of clustering new tech companies into a Silicon Valley-style bubble, they are spread across the city. This creates an ecosystem that attracts new companies and helps the talent pool integrate, rather than seek opportunities elsewhere.

6. Paris

The French capital is fast becoming Europe’s go-to tech hub, rivalling neighbours including London. Tech programmes have been implemented to entice international companies and talent. These include streamlined corporate tax and labour laws, a fast-tracked international tech visa system, and a €10 billion national innovation fund.

The Eiffel Tower is seen in silhouette at sunset on a winter day in Paris, France, January 15, 2016.
Paris climbed 3 places this year.
Image: REUTERS/Charles Platiau

5. Singapore

As one of two Asian cities to make the top 10, Singapore is an attractive proposition for tech firms wanting to enter Asia-Pacific markets. It has a 2-hectare town dedicated to research into self-driving vehicles, including a test circuit complete with traffic lights, bus stops and pedestrian crossings. More than 10 companies are conducting tests at the centre.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the future of cities?

Cities represent humanity's greatest achievements - and greatest challenges. From inequality to air pollution, poorly designed cities are feeling the strain as 68% of humanity is predicted to live in urban areas by 2050.

The World Economic Forum supports a number of projects designed to make cities cleaner, greener and more inclusive.

These include hosting the Global Future Council on Cities and Urbanization, which gathers bright ideas from around the world to inspire city leaders, and running the Future of Urban Development and Services initiative. The latter focuses on how themes such as the circular economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to create better cities. To shed light on the housing crisis, the Forum has produced the report Making Affordable Housing a Reality in Cities.

4. Los Angeles

Down the Pacific Coast from Silicon Valley, LA is home to Silicon Beach, a tech community with more than 500 start-ups as well as offices of established industry giants, such as Google, Salesforce, and Snapchat’s parent company. The tech sector accounts for around 10% of the local economy and is on an upwards trajectory.

3. London

Having once topped the list, London falls one place to third, despite having a thriving tech sector that welcomes innovators and attracts top talent. England’s capital remains a leading hub for technology companies, with many of the industry’s big players, such as Facebook, Apple, Intel and Google, having major operations in the city.

2. Tokyo

Last year’s winner Tokyo slips into second, but retains its status as one of the world’s leading innovation hubs. The Japanese megacity is the home of robotics research and development, and is a pioneering centre for 3D manufacturing technology.

1. New York

Jumping three places to top this year’s index, the Big Apple is a business powerhouse that’s investing heavily in cultivating more than 7,000 tech start-ups. The city’s tech sector has grown rapidly in recent years, developing world-leading talent and expertise in disciplines like advanced manufacturing and robotics, cybersecurity, and health and life sciences.

New York tops the table as the world’s most innovative city.
New York rises 3 places since last year.
Image: Reuters/Carlo Allegri