New York overtakes London as smartest city

  • December 13, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

New York has overtaken London to become the world’s smartest city according to the fourth edition of think tank Z/Yen’s Smart Centres Index (SCI).

The index explores the ability of global commercial centres to be hubs for the development of new technology. In SCI 4, New York takes first place, with London returning to second place. But three of the top five are in the UK, with Oxford and Cambridge third and fourth, respectively. Hong Kong is fifth.

Leading centres in the SCI are based in places which combine an innovative, cultural centre with a high-performing university sector across stem subjects, supported by well-developed regulatory, commercial and financial services.

Western European centres feature strongly, with seven centres in the top ten, alongside New York in first place, and Hong Kong and Singapore from Asia-Pacific.

US and Chinese centres do not feature as highly in the index as might be expected given the extent of their development in technology, as shown by their leading position in the filing of patents and with China leading the USA on this measure.

Looking at the dimensions that make up the SCI, US centres generally rank lower for creative intensity than their overall rank, and Chinese and other Asia-Pacific centres score lower for innovation support, including regulation, than they do for the other dimensions.

New York regained its first position in the index, remaining the only US centre in the top ten. London took second place, with Oxford, Cambridge, Hong Kong and Singapore taking the next places.

Copenhagen joins the index in eighth place, replacing Geneva in the top ten. Zurich was seventh, Stockholm ninth and Dublin tenth. The second highest US city was Chicago at eleventh.

Only three centres rose ten or more places in the rankings in SCI 4, while six centres fell ten or more places.

“Technology and science change how we engage with the world,” said Michael Mainelli, executive chairman of Z/Yen. “The pace of innovation is heightened as connectivity keeps increasing. More and more, the successful commercial centres in the world are those who nurture technology. These smart centres are forming in four clusters, an exceptionally strong UK, North America, Europe and south-east Asia. We anticipate the emergence of a singular China soon too. Policy makers are realising that narrow technology areas, for example fintech, are not sufficient and they need to rethink how they build a truly smart, knowledge economy. We have much to learn.”

The SCI is a factor assessment index, combining a number of instrumental factors – data measures drawn from a range of data providers across the world – and assessments given by business and finance professionals of three dimensions related to innovation and technology in major commercial and financial centres:

  • Innovation support – the approach taken to regulation and support for the innovation and technology industry provided by the commercial ecosystem.
  • Creative intensity – the extent to which technology and innovative industries are embedded in the economy of the centre.
  • Delivery capability – the quality of the work being undertaken in the field in the centre.

These dimensions are brought together in the overall SCI ratings to produce the index, which is updated every six months. SCI 4 was compiled using 130 instrumental factors. These quantitative measures are provided by third parties including the World Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit, OECD and the United Nations. The instrumental factors were combined with 2157 assessments provided by 302 respondents to an online questionnaire.

Z/Yen is London’s leading commercial think-tank. It was founded in 1994 to promote societal advance through better finance and technology. The SCI is part of Z/Yen’s research into economic centres alongside the Global Financial Centres Index and the Global Green Finance Index.