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Global Innovation Hubs Index 2020


Executive summary

Global innovation hubs are defined as cities or metropolitan areas that can lead the flow of global innovation elements and influence the efficiency of resource allocation, drawing on their unique advantages in science and technology innovation. In technological and industrial competitions, they emerge as global cities that integrate research innovation, an innovation economy and a supportive ecosystem for innovation.

The global community faces common challenges. Climate change, ecological degradation, infectious diseases and potential risks brought by emerging technologies have challenged the stability of human development. The solution lies in significant breakthroughs and a paradigm shift in science. The fourth industrial revolution, triggered by the development of digital technologies, requires more efficient innovation models. Moreover, the nature of innovation-driven development demands updating, cultivating and reshaping the innovation ecosystem. In meeting these needs, global science and technology innovation hubs play a vital role; they continually produce new knowledge and ideas, drive economic development, and facilitate the evolution of the innovation ecosystem. A worldwide assessment of these global innovation hubs is, therefore, of great relevance.

The Global Innovation Hubs Index (GIHI), developed by the Center for Industrial Development and Environmental Governance at Tsinghua University, with support from Nature Research, aims to set up an index system, based on scientific methods and objective data, to evaluate the innovation capacities and development potentials of global science and technology innovation hubs, providing a reference for policy-makers and practitioners.

The GIHI primarily assesses global innovation hubs in three dimensions: research innovation, innovation economy, and innovation ecosystem.

First, an innovation hub is a centre with extensive research activities and research networks. In the GIHI, the dimension of research innovation examines the scientific and technological resources of its people, research institutions, research infrastructure, and knowledge creation of the city or metropolitan area.

Second, a global innovation hub, with vibrant innovation activities, typically has a booming innovation economy. This dimension includes metrics on the region’s technological innovation capacity, high-tech enterprises, emerging industries, and economic growth.

Third, the development of a global innovation hub benefits from a supportive innovation ecosystem. This dimension focuses on the openness and collaboration networks of a region, its support for entrepreneurship, public service infrastructure, and the innovation culture.

Seeking to be scientific, objective, independent and impartial, the GIHI system has its distinct features compared with other index systems in the world for innovation evaluation. It makes use of metrics, such as network centrality to measure the relative potential and influence of a city in a global network. It uses micro-level data with fine granularity to measure a city’s research output, patents, foreign investment, high-tech companies, as well as the international flight network. It also adopts metrics constructed by international organizations based on large surveys to measure some system or culture-related factors, like business environment, talent attraction, and entrepreneurship, to add a subjective perspective. Lastly, it focuses on cutting-edge technologies and emerging economic sectors, such as artificial intelligence, information and communication technologies, and biomedicine, to demonstrate the development potential of a city.

Given the tight timeline and limitations for data collection, this is just a beta version, and the ranking provided by this report is preliminary. The indicators and data analysis in the report will be updated and improved in future.

For now, the report selected and assessed 30 cities or metropolitan areas. The results show that:

For the overall GIHI ranking, the top ten cities/metropolitan areas are: San Francisco-San Jose, New York, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Tokyo, Beijing, London, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Baltimore-Washington and Chapel Hill-Durham-Raleigh.

The GIHI top 10 cities/metropolitan areas in research innovation are: New York, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, San Francisco-San Jose, London, Baltimore-Washington, Paris, Chapel Hill-Durham-Raleigh, Beijing, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim and Tokyo.

The GIHI top 10 cities/metropolitan areas in innovation economy are: San Francisco-San Jose, Tokyo, Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, Seoul, Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue and Boston-Cambridge-Newton.

The GIHI top 10 cities/metropolitan areas in innovation ecosystem are: San Francisco-San Jose, New York, London, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, Amsterdam, Singapore, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue and Philadelphia.

Further analyses show that:

The global innovation cities have varied development paths and positioning. While few cities, like San Francisco-San Jose and Boston-Cambridge-Newton, have balanced performance in all dimensions, most follow divergent paths in the development of research innovation, innovation economy and ecosystem. It suggests that cities/metropolitan areas have their distinct advantages and their development may be unbalanced.

Big international metropolises and smaller cities with their distinctive features are complementary to each other in the progress of innovation. Big international metropolises, like New York, Tokyo, Beijing and London, enjoy inherent advantages in bringing together innovation resources, creating scientific knowledge and incubating high-tech start-ups, given the clustering effects they have. Yet, some cities/metropolitan areas with smaller populations, like Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue and Chapel Hill-Durham-Raleigh, have their own distinctive features in innovation-driven development, with specialties in certain technological fields. Each city plays a significant role in its own field, and is exploring its unique path towards innovation development.

Basic research and technological innovation capacities remain important elements that determine a city or metropolitan area’s position in the global innovation network. More than half of cities/metropolitan areas in the overall top 10 list, like San Francisco-San Jose, Boston-Cambridge-Newton, New York, Beijing and London, have a concentration of renowned universities and research institutions, with solid bases in scientific research, and therefore, have an edge in innovation capacities, and their positions are difficult to challenge.

Digitalisation has accelerated technological innovation and research translation. The rapid progress of digital economy has highlighted Asian cities’ advantages in innovation economy. Asian cities are gaining development momentum in emerging new economies, which are exerting an increasingly significant impact. Seven Asian cities are ranked among the global top 10 list in innovation economy. Chinese cities like Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai are establishing their unique strengths by stimulating innovative potentials of digital technology companies; cities/metropolitan areas such as Tokyo, Seoul, Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe and Tel Aviv have also shown the world their distinct culture, tradition and innovation.