Tokyo was labelled as a “world leader” in innovation. © Getty Images/iStockphoto
Tokyo was labelled as a “world leader” in innovation. © Getty Images/iStockphoto

Asian cities dominate innovation ranking

posted by Lucy Patchett
31 July 2019

Tokyo, Singapore and Beijing are among the top five most innovative cities in the world, according to a report. 

Tokyo was labelled as a “world leader” in innovation, second only to San Francisco. The city leads the technological market and is home to several multinational corporations, including Sony and Toyota, said the report by commercial real estate firm JLL.

Meanwhile, Singapore placed third and Beijing placed fourth due to the investment in start-ups and research and development (R&D). 

The report ranked the world’s top 20 most innovative cities after investigating over 100 cities globally. The firm found that those with strong innovation and a talented workforce outperformed over the long term.

Carol Hodgson, senior director of JLL’s Global Research team, said: “There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that innovation and talent in cities leads to stronger productivity gains and economic growth over the long term and our research corroborated this.”

Tokyo had the highest level of international patents globally between 2015-18. The city also has the largest amount of multinational corporations, including Sony, SoftBank, Toyota, and Mitsubishi. This encourages R&D and significant buy-in from foreign investors, according to the report. 

However, Tokyo lacks start-ups and has only produced one unicorn, a private start-up worth over $1bn. The report said it needs to “foster an active culture” to generate more. 

It also has a talented workforce but falls short in this area due to an ageing population.

Singapore's innovation ranking was supported by a "rapidly-growing start-up scene", with investments of more than $10bn in the last three years. The report said it is the "world’s top destination for foreign direct investment in high-tech industries with investments in sectors ranging from software design to semiconductor manufacturing".

Beijing was highlighted because it has produced the highest number of unicorns outside Silicon Valley. It is also the third largest destination for venture capital funding and is a leading research hub.

Other cities in Asia Pacific also made it into the top 20 including, Seoul (10), Shanghai (11), and Shenzhen (14). 

Chinese cities are becoming “hotbeds for innovation”, according to the report. JLL predicts that more “tier one cities” – those with high levels of development, population and infrastructure – will feature in future rankings. Cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen are strong contenders because “they build sophisticated innovation ecosystems”, said JLL.

The report considered foriegn investment in high-tech industries, attraction of venture capital, international patent applications, the amount spent on R&D, education level of the population, age demographics, and employment in high-tech industries.

The world’s top 20 most innovative cities are:

1. San Francisco 

2. Tokyo

3. Singapore

4. Beijing

5. London

6. San Jose 

7. Paris

8. New York

9. Boston

10. Seoul

11. Shanghai

12. Los Angeles

13. Munich

14. Shenzhen

15. Seattle

16. Sydney

17. Toronto

18. Berlin

19. Amsterdam

20. Stockholm

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