Innovation Cities™ Index 2021: City Rankings Method Overview

For Covid 19 related Changes to this method, please see the FAQ 2021.

Outside the dramatic 'focus shift' (and time frame adjustments) of this extraordinary year, technical method is comparable since 2018.

2021 City Rankings (includes 2020) and 2019 City Rankings

City rankings measuring conditions for innovation in cities worldwide.

Innovation conditions are measured using a 3 factor score. This score is aligned to a process of innovation. The process covers turning ideas into implemented and communicated innovations. In turn, the 3 factor scores are derived from scoring 162 indicators with Benchmark Scores. The scores are done in accordance with our own benchmark guides (based on 500+ cities data) and algorithms within our model.

Being a broad-based index, these 162 indicators cover all 31 industry segments within a major city. This means we are not examining purely tech, science or STEM innovation.

The 162 indicators are in turn, derived from around 1000 data point variables selected from 2thinknow's City Benchmarking Data set (external site). This commercial quality data is sold to business and others for investment decisions. (As well as being used and tested in the Index.)

Collectively, this is termed the Innovation Cities™ Framework, the largest of it's kind, established in 2007, expanded in 2010 and ongoingly converted to quantitative basis between 2012 and 2019. The majority of the Index is now driven by algorithms.

Additionally, learn more about Classifications and Benchmark Scores (external link), or current FAQ and Media Release

3 Factors which Model Innovation.

In practice, the 3 Factoes can be understood as measring the cultural and environmental conditions for a process of innovation. i.e. Idea Generation, Idea Implementation and finally Communication to Others. In short, as innovation moves from idea to implementation and then, communication.

Cities in the Innovation Cities™ Index are scored for innovation on these 3 Factors:

3-factorsCultural Assets: Measurable sources of ideas (e.g. designers, art galleries, sports, museums, dance, nature, etc)

Human Infrastructure: Soft and hard infrastructure to implement innovation (transport, universities, business, venture capital, office space, government, technology, etc.)

Networked Markets: Basic conditions and connections for innovation (location, tech, military, economies of related entities etc) - communication of innovation

These 3 Factors are based on 2thinknow’s extensive model of the stages of innovation process. Which in turn shares its roots with Design thinking, Lean, Agile and pre-cursor models of innovation and texts going back to the 1960s. Our specific data approach with it's analytical models is termed the 2thinknow Innovation Development Life Cycle model. We first drafted this in 2006-7.

The 3 factors measure the conditions for turning an innovative idea into an implemented successful global (or regional) innovation.

In short, the model is based on ideas, implementation and communication with a 4th phase used to assess feasibility. Variations of this model have been published since the 2007 edition of our report.

> More on the 3 Factors

4 Innovation Classifications.

Based on their 3 factor score, all cities are graded into award categories. Please see the Classification explanation here.


The Innovation Cities™ Index results can be grouped by regions and subregions to find relative strengths and weaknesses within an area. Each region has several subregions. These are as follows:

AMERICAS: USA, Canada and Latin America Groupings

EUROPE: Euro Cont (includes Turkey), UK (now a separate Grouping) and Russia

ASIA: Asia, China, India, Japan and ANZ (Australia & NZ) Groupings

EMERGING: Mid-East, Africa, and Eurasia Groupings.


Index Methodology in brief.

The Index is the most comprehensive city ranking and scoring.

Each city was originally selected from 1,700+ cities based on basic factors of health, wealth, population, geography as well as potential relative to peers. The final cities in 2019 had data extracted on 162 indicators under the City Benchmarking Data program.

Each of the benchmarking data was scored by analysts using best available qualitative analysis and quantitative statistics (see City Benchmarking Data to purchase city data).

Underlying data was then balanced against current global trends, by analysts to form a simplified 3 factor score for Cultural Assets, Human Infrastructure and Networked Markets. For city classification, these scores were competitively graded into 4 bands (Nexus, Hub, Node, Upstart) based on how broad based (multiple indicators) the city performance was. The top scored cities (top third) were allocated as Nexus and Hub were ranked by analysts based on comparison of current innovation potential. A Node classification is considered 'globally competitive'. From this global Index 4 regional indexes for Americas, Europe, Asia and Emerging are then also produced, and 13 sub region indexes also.

The ranking was completed on the scored and classified cities using 2thinknow trend analysis techniques. The trend assumptions used are outlined as 'Key Trends' in the Innovation Cities Analysis Report. Please note the full list on the index page is classified and ranked.

More discussion and questions answered in this extensive FAQ but for full details, order the Innovation Cities Analysis Report.

About 2thinknow Innovation Cities™ Program.

Based in Melbourne Australia, 2thinknow is the world’s first innovation agency.

Established 2006, we have designed original models to measure and deliver innovation to cities, business seeking new markets and growth, and NGO/government clients. 2thinknow's Innovation Cities™ Index provides powerful tools for creating an urban  innovation economy. This includes the City Benchmarking Data™ details on cities by segment globally, analyst reports such as the Innovation Cities™ Analysis Report.

In the Innovation Course, we are teaching our clients new innovation methods and practices. 2thinknow work with other clients through innovation consulting, analyst reports, projects  and innovation services, as well as a number of online resources and groups. 2thinknow have published the Innovation Cities™ Indexes city rankings free online since 2007. This is 500 cities since 2015, and is the world’s largest and most diverse city index.

Contact 2thinknow here: or via twitter @2thinknow