City ranking and cities indexes frequently asked questions, 2010

FAQ about Innovation Cities ProgramGeneral Questions

What are the top 100 rankings?

The Innovation Cities Top 100 ranks the top 100 cities in the world as innovation destinations. There are 30 Nexus, 65 Hub and 5 Node cities in the top 100 ranking.

What is the index and how does the index classify cities?

The Innovation Cities Global Index classifies the full 289 cities across a broad range of continents into 5 performance classes. Cities selected from a list of 1,540 cities. These are cities 2thinknow are watching for innovation. (more details below)

How can I use the index or rankings?

The 2010 index indicates top cities that are nexus and hubs. These form the best general destinations for innovation across a variety of sectors, at this moment in time.

When did the Index start, what's its brief history?

The first rankings of 22 cities based on 95 index scores was published in April, 2007. The 95 cities were updated with their full 3 factor scores in 2008. The index was conceived in 2005, and the design and collection of data has taken 5 years.

For the 2009 index, the modern 162 indicator framework was created, and the first scoring sheets were publicly released to cities that chose to assist.

How are the global and regional city indexes classified?

All 289 cities are classified into 5 classifications . There are 7 unranked cities published for comparative purposes.

The 5 classifications are assigned based on index scores. These are explained under each index, but here's how they are defined for this year's index:

NEXUS: Critical nexus for innovation across economic and social segments

HUB: Dominance or influence on key economic and social segments given current trends

NODE: Broad performance across many segments, some imbalances

INFLUENCER: Competitive in some segments, imbalanced

UPSTART: Potential steps towards future performance in a few segments (new in 2010)

Why is the index useful?

Cities that are nexus and hubs are critical junctures in innovation across multiple industry and community segments. Nodes are also competitive cities globally on innovation.

It's a new (innovative) way of considering innovation clusters and regions.

What is a 'good performance' for a city?

A good performance is a node city. We classify this as competitive.

A node city may be perceived as better by residents than the residents of cities who may have higher expectations.

A node city can still dominate a single industry segment, and in fact that is often how node cities become hub cities.

Why do you include more indicators than other indexes?

We include 162 standard indicators. We are producing an overall city index score for all cities and ranking of top cities.

There are 39 indicators in Mercer. Some indexes have 5 indicators. Ours is more about a balanced economy for innovation across many sectors.

How many cities do you include?

If you've read this far you know it's 289. We have a city benchmarking data-set of 1,540 cities.  Other indexes include from 50 to 230 cities. We may include more over time.

Why are nexus cities the best all-round destinations for innovation?

The nexus cities have the most balanced performance across multiple sectors of the economy. If you are not sure which sector of the economy you want, these are the cities. These cities tend to balance livability with opportunity.

Hub cities have a wide variety of  opportunities across more than one segment or sector.

How are city classifications determined?

Nexus and hub cities are best for innovation across multiple economic sectors, based on their 3-factor index scores.

How is the index score derived for each city?

Using the Innovation Cities™ Framework. For the index, the 162 city indicators across 31 industry and community segments, weighted and are summed up into 3 factors:

Cultural Assets of a city from arts to sports industries.

Human Infrastructure, from mobility to start-ups, health, finance and more.

Networked Markets, the power of a city in a networked world.

The analysts release an index score out of 30 for top cities, although we have more detailed benchmarking data.

Where can I get an overview of the Innovation Cities™ Framework?

The Innovation Cities™ Framework is the centrepiece of the Innovation Cities™ Analysis Report:

The report gives the context of measuring urban innovation economies, summarizes each segment and city indicator. It's a low-cost introduction. There are excerpts and tables of contents on the above site.

Is the Innovation Cities™ Analysis Report about specific cities?

Many cities are profiled in the Innovation Cities™ Analysis Report, however, it's purpose is to outline a framework and elements you may need to build an urban innovation economy.

How do I get a detailed report on a specific city?

You can order a detailed City Data Audit on any city from 2thinknow. This includes 162 city indicators of data, with evidence for each score, a variety of goodies.

You can also commission a custom written report with analyst commentary - contact us.

How is benchmarking data scored for each indicator?

Based on evidence collected. There are up to 4 items of evidence for each city indicator for each city. This data gathering process has grown, since it started 2006.

What are the 31 industry and community segments?

These are part of a multi-sector view of innovation. The 31 segments are listed online here.

Each of them are discussed in the Innovation Cities™ Analysis Report:

Where can I read about and understand each city indicator?

Each of the current standard 162 city indicators are listed and explained in the Innovation Cities™ Analysis Report:

Is their data about my city?

In 2009, we added 33 a further cities from to the free online published indexes.

We include 1,540 cities in our underlying data-set of City Benchmarking Data.

How are cities selected for inclusion?

The cities are selected based on demographic, geographic, economic, health and social factors from a list of 1,540 cities.

To ensure a global mix of cities, we then select a set number of cities from different nations with potential for innovation.

Can I get the benchmarking data for my city?

Yes. You can purchase single segments, or up to the full 31 segments (162 indicators) for any city. The continually updated underlying data-set and evidence can be purchased by cities, business and individuals from

Can I buy data to compare each of the cities?

Yes. For example you could buy the mobility data for any cities you choose including all slides, graphs and spreadsheet data for an affordable price.

Where can I learn more about professionally measuring city performance?

We've made it easy just visit perhaps take the tour, and then contact us

Besides the global index, what other indexes are there?

There are 4 regional indexes for Americas, Europe, Asia and Emerging are extracted from global index.

Can I reproduce the indexes or top 100 rankings?

Yes. As long as you attribute them correctly  and don't change their integrity. To be safe, read the reproduction paragraph under each index for clear instructions.

Do you publish all cities scored and classified?

We publicly share all cities classifications, not just the top-ranked 30 or 50.

Is there a media release?

Yes. Here's our general release, and headline rankings for use by media of all kinds.

Can you do an interview?

Yes. We prefer email interviews, but have also done skype interviews. Contact us or email

Can you just rank start-up, sports or technology segments of cities?

Anyone can purchase our city benchmarking data for these segments.

Organizations can even use this to produce their own rankings.

The city benchmarking data has been acquired by over 3 years work building a global data-set, yet we have made it affordable in price.

What was the methodology?

The 2010 methodology is explained on each index. You can reproduce or quote this for any articles or research on the topic.

Purchase the Innovation Cities™ Analysis Report for better understanding:

What is your global guidance to the trends?

The key 21 trends we consider are outlined in the Innovation Cities™ Analysis Report:

Can I get the benchmarking data?

You can purchase city benchmarking data on any city,  like the professional indexes such as Mercer and Economist. Here is the city benchmarking data site. We have more indicators.

Can I purchase a report just on my cities performance?

Yes. You can purchase city benchmarking reports on any city, like the professional indexes such as Mercer and Economist. Contact us.

Will the index change year-on-year?

The index is designed to grow and evolve, as the economy grows and evolves. It is not static, and nor will the index remain the same year on year. The index first published 22 cities from 95 cities in 2007.

What is the most important aspect of the index?

If we had to choose, the classifications are more important than the rankings.

The top 30 nexus, and the broader the top 100 cities are the best destinations for innovation based on their underlying index score.

What is the difference between the global list and the top 100?

The first 100 cities are ranked. The other 189 are scored and classified into 5 classes.

Is this a technology index / ranking?

Yes and no. Technology is a major contributing factor beyond a direct technology industry.

We examine the application of technology to sectors of the urban innovation economy, by measuring sectors.

How is this index different?

We measure segments of a balanced urban economy at the urban level.

Is Boston or any nexus city 'perfect'?

No city receives a perfect score of an ideal city. Scores are calibrated from the best in a factor achieved to the minimum possible. As each city improves performance, the category of nexus city becomes a bar that rises. We have toughened analyst scoring guides since 2009.

What makes this index an innovative approach?

The index will evolve over time, as innovation changes. It is designed to be flexible, and evolve.

What is the biggest thing a city can do to improve their performance?

This is a complex balanced multi-factor ranking. Local government can do many things to improve their community. The Local innovation Forum event talks about what communities can do at all levels. At the business and government level, infrastructure, trade and policy are among factors important to cities.

Can you break down the performance of cities to the city level?

Yes, 2thinknow can provide city benchmarking data for most urban centers above 100,000 in greater area population. 1,540 are in our data-file, but we can do different conglomerations of city data and boundaries.

Can I get data on any city, even if you measure the larger area?

Yes. For the index we include smaller centers as a functional part of larger centers. e.g. Gdynia is treated as part of Gdansk's ranking. City benchmarking data includes data on 1,540 urban populations worldwide.

Is this a survey?

No. However, cities can request complete a word document survey to ensure we have the latest information. All scoring is done by analysts based on a process.

Why are analyst rankings are better than surveys?

Analysts have a professional logical framework, and are using professional tools. However, we use popular local sources, but always in a global comparative context.

Why do we favour innovation over livability rankings?

We measure urban innovation economies, and the indexes are a headline score for that.

Urban innovation economies are dynamic places to live work and play.

How can I help to improve the underlying data?

The web is moving more and more inside pay-walls. You can assist by providing data that is not available publicly, or for whatever reason, is not easy to locate through Google.

So make a submission about your city. Or if, you officially work for the city, you can contact us and request a city survey to fill out.

Why are these rankings different from magazine rankings?

Magazine rankings often focus on specific criteria to answer specific questions. They may not use analysts, and may be written for a great many purposes.

We differentiate between professional (Mercer, Economist) rankings with reports and methodologies.

We use some of the thorough magazine rankings such as the Fortune 500 in scoring some city indicators.

Is measuring creativity the same as innovation?

No. Creativity is about generating ideas. We measure Cultural Assets as a measure of creativity.

This is one-third of our innovation index. But having great ideas is not the same as implementing, and communicating.

Why is knowledge an important part of innovation?

Knowledge is integrated into the design process that is drives innovation process. Measuring knowledge is part of each stage of the innovation process related to cities.

Knowledge is critical to the university and education segment, but also other segment e.g. arts, government policy, economics (and policy) and start-ups (often leveraging special knowledge).

We measure outputs of knowledge across all 3 factors of innovation: Cultural Assets, Human Infrastructure and Networked Markets.

How is the 2010 Index methodology different from 2009?

They were broadly the same. Obviously, the economy has changed in many cities, and these shifts have been considered.

Do you use statistics?

Yes. Several indicators such as GDP per capita, unemployment rate or Gini co-efficient are traditional statistics. We also use national statistics, some of which we localise for cities and urban centres.

How much do you rely on national or state estimates for statistics?

Where city-level data is available we use it. If it is not state data is used. If state data is not available national data is used. We prefer our proprietary benchmarking approaches to relying solely on statistics.

I have this idea and need data, can you help?

You can take advantage of our extensive city benchmarking data and commercial experience, by commissioning us to work with you on custom data-sets or reports. Contact us

Random reader questions

What is the most important issue facing cities?

Employment in the new economy. The 3 city challenges we identify in the report are equity, economics and environment. Employment speaks to each of these.

Can you explain which urban boundaries you use?

We use the actual effective urban population, for the City Benchmarking Data, not just the inner metro or CBD. We do this to measure actual performance. In most cases we list this under the name of the largest urban entity. For example Dusseldorf's ranking includes the town of Neuss. For Minneapolis we include St Paul.

In the real world these function as economic entities. So that's how we measure them.

How do you decide which name to give cities?

We have generally used the English name for the city. Sometimes we use the name of the greater metropolitan area for the Index, or alternately include secondary centres with major ones.

Can you explain East Riding of Yorkshire?

East Riding of Yorkshire is effectively a local government district, not a city. Kingston-upon-Hull (Hull) is a separate city district within the city. However, this is mainly an administrative distinction. In this case we resolved this by listing the larger administrative area for the purpose of the Index rankings. Effectively, East Riding of Yorkshire is the economic entity.

The region is included as it is the outer-most seaport in the region formed laterally across the U.K. from Liverpool to the mouth of the Humber, one of the world's dominant economic, and potentially dominant innovation, regions.

Why does my city rank well?

In general, city benchmarking data turns up many expected results.If you expected it do well, that's great. If you it expected it do badly, sometimes data turns up unexpected results. We are measuring innovation in sectors. This innovation may transform into further benefits in 2-11 years.

Many residents often assess their cities differently based on their opinions.

Do you measure patents?

Yes and no. We do not directly measure patents like many rankings.There is an open debate on patents and innovation in some sectors. However, cities do well, in part because of sectors supported by revenues from patents. An example is the university sector which we measure, and the medicine sector.

What country has the most cities node level or above?

There are some national statistics we have launched for the first time this year, here. Tell us what you think.

How does this link into mega-regions?

There are some similarities. We recommend you read Richard Florida's 'Who's Your City?'. We share some similarities in outcomes, even though we use different data methods.

Why is my city not in the index?

The cities included generally form natural innovation clusters and regions. We have proprietary methods for assessing this, and which cities have the most economic and social potential. This is subject to change, being based on the constant volatility markets face, and the technological disruption we are undergoing.

Sometimes we may include a dominant city in a region, not the secondary cities.

When will my city be listed?

Just because your city is not listed does not mean it will not be. We add cities to the index every year across the globe.

All cities appear in our 1,540 city benchmarking data-set, and may appear also in our report, and case studies.

In the meantime you can order from 2thinknow 'City Data Audit' or an analyst report on any city, based on city benchmarking data.

Have there been any typo corrections since the index was published in September 2010?

Yes. These errata have now been corrected. These all had spelling errors in the published lists released online.

3 typographical corrections were made: Cape Town (from Cape Town - noted by Janine Erasmus), Fukuoka (Fukoaka)  and Qingdao (Qing Dao)

Were there any classification errors, and have they now been corrected?

There was 1 classification Charlottesville in the published file. Charlottesville refers to the university town and home to University of Virginia, in Virginia (not South Carolina).

In this case, this was also a typographical error the published list.

Is data available on smaller cities surrounding major cities?

Where there is a major city and/or a nexus, we will normally include the effective municipal area of that city.

Benchmarking data is available on cities in the San Francisco bay area, even though those cities are effectively included in the index score of San Francisco for the index.

In some cases dual cities or tri-cities will list the larger entity (Gdansk in Poland) or the common urban grouping and name (Minneapolis-St Paul in Minnesota). In special cases such as East Riding of Yorkshire, the administrative regional name has been used -- not the major city Hull (also Kingston-upon Hull). See also our earlier comments above about naming conventions. Population is based on the larger geographical area.

If you feel there is a better naming suggestion for your city or region or index, let us know via a quick submission.

Also, please note city benchmarking data is available to order for any major municipal classification, irrespective of the Index classifications.