These days all eyes are turned towards Asia Pacific, a region which has proved its ability to adapt to the demands of the market and has seen several of its cities blossom into centres of innovation.

If companies are to assess which places are most attractive for them to set up and grow their businesses, they need to be able to identify the most innovative cities. This is exactly what Solidiance, a consultancy that specialises in helping its multinational clients to understand the Asian market, has set out to do. The firm has carried out a study of sixteen extraordinary urban centres based on six key categories inspired by Richard Florida's groundbreaking book ‘Creative Class and Creative Economy’. The top 5 most innovative cities listed by Solidiance are spearheaded by Singapore, followed by Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Auckland.

Helping industries find the right place to set up

The six main categories on which Solidiance bases its assessment of innovative cities are: human talent, knowledge creation, technology, society, government, and global integration. At the top of the ‘human talent’ category we find Melbourne, followed by Sydney and then Auckland. As far as knowledge creation – in the form of research and development – is concerned, Tokyo, Pusan and Seoul lead the line, and when it comes to technology, Hong Kong, Sydney and once again Melbourne emerge as the top three. For categories four, five and six listed above, the leading cities are Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore respectively. However Solidiance’s rankings depended on a ‘photo finish’ and so could well change in the near future. At any rate, by adapting their city spaces and development methodologies, these innovative cities seem to have come up with the right formula for attracting foreign companies looking to expand into a cutting-edge environment.

What is an innovative city?

The study found that cities described as ‘innovative’ are better equipped to deal with the global slowdown in growth. In addition the data show that cities which adjust quickest to new trends are more successful and, from a business point of view, more stable over the long term. These cities are highly attractive to firms specialising in research and development, typically hosting major companies working in biotechnology, state-of-the-art or ‘green’ technologies, urban planning and transportation, education, mobile communications, sport, leisure and entertainment. As they attract the top firms, they can also provide a wider choice of job opportunities. In short, as Charles Hampden Turner, Senior Research Associate at the Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge (UK) puts it, to create an ‘innovative’ city, “you need a great diversity of talents (…) a melting pot.” The city will be “highly cosmopolitan [because] innovation consists of combining two or more elements that have never been combined before,” argues the Cambridge business researcher.


By Kathleen Comte