Innovation Cities Index 2011 FAQ

FAQ about Innovation Cities ProgramGeneral Questions about 2011 Indexes

This FAQ for 2011 will be updated by analysts based on reader's questions.

What are the top city rankings?

The Innovation Cities Top Cities ranks the top cities in the world as innovation destinations. In 2011 the top Nexus cities (10% of all benchmark cities), Hub cities (next 20%) and selected Node cities are ranked.

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

The Innovation Cities Global Index classifies 331 benchmark cities across a broad range of continents into 5 performance classes. Cities selected from a list of 1,540 cities. These are cities 2thinknow analysts are monitoring for innovation relative to peer / competing cities.

What are the differences from 2010?

The trend analysis underlying the rankings is different (reflecting Japan's problems) which means that the rankings may vary more than the classifications. A few indicators are differently designed, otherwise,there are very few methodology differences between 2010 and 2011 Indexes.

How can I use the index or rankings?

The 2011 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. Nexus cities have the advantage of  addressing a greater number of segments of the economy.

In 2011 my city is a Nexus, why is this important?

A Nexus city, is a top innovation destination for innovation in multiple sectors of the urban economy. Nexus cities have a high probability from a cluster of pre-conditions to create innovation not just in science, but in areas such as product, process, business, service, policy and other types of innovation. So if you were looking for a strong city to create innovation in general, Nexus cities are the best choice.

Do Nexus cities change much from year to year? Are there typical Nexus cities?

Cities such as Paris, Boston, San Francisco, Amsterdam and New York will typically always be Nexus cities. Trends support the movement of other cities up or down, and in and out of Nexus cities. However, no Nexus is likely to fall below Hub status.

My city has become a Nexus from Hub what does that mean?

This means our analysis is that your city has become an optimal destination for innovation, as a Nexus status suggests.

A city has fallen from Nexus to Hub this year, what does that mean?

This means that in general based on favorable industries and trends in 2011-2014 the city is slightly less favoured for general innovation than it was in 2010.

Do you change the rankings a lot from year to year?

No. The 2011 and 2010 ranking will have shifts based on trends. But trend analysis tends to run in cycles. This means Nexus and Hub cities may move around, but no city that has been excluded will rise to be a Nexus in a single year.

My city has changed in the global rankings should this matter?

All rankings are relative to other cities. It is more important to examine regional than global rankings for specific cities.

My city is a Hub city, is this less important than a Nexus City?

No. Hub cities have competencies in slightly fewer sectors, and may be dominated by fewer industry and community segments. Cities that focus on a few key industries tend to become hubs (or even nodes).

My city is a Node City, what does this mean?

Node means globally competitive for some types of innovation. Once again, this means competency in fewer segments of the urban innovation economy.

My city is not listed, what does this mean?

Your city is classified as a Node city or below, all cities that wold be score well enough to reach Nexus status and Hub status are captured, and in 2011 there are no omitted Hub Cities. If you would like an indicative idea, look at similar geographic and economic cities in your region or country.

Are there any cities included within other cities?

Yes, for the Index purposes, we include the surrounding suburbs in cities. An example of this is San Francisco and also cities like Dussseldorf includes nearby Neuss, or Frankfurt which include Offenbach. It is advantageous to be within 60-90 minutes transit time from any Nexus or Hub City.

Is you city index the biggest?

Yes. We create the largest index in both number of cities, and indicators examined.

How subjective is your Index?

Underlying city indicator data is tightly defined using 162 indicators, these are then weighted by analysts, and a separate subjective zeitgeist factor added to account for unforeseen fast moving trends. This would place the Index subjectivity with peers for livability such as Mercer and Economist (EIU). However, all indexes are general rankings. Please order specific City Benchmarking Data for investment, planning, strategy or data decisions.

How are the global and regional city indexes classified?

All benchmark cities are classified into the 5 classifications . There are also a limited number of 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 multiple economic and social innovation segments HUB: Dominance or influence on key economic and social innovation segments , based on global rends NODE: Broad performance across many innovation segments, with key imbalances INFLUENCER: Competitive in some segments, potential or imbalanced UPSTART: Potential steps towards relative future performance in a few innovation segments

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 331. We have a city benchmarking data-set of 1,540 cities. Other indexes include from 50 to 230 cities. We include more cities as we improve our certainty about their 3 factor scores, based on better data.

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 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. Our media release is provided with each index 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 2011 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:

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.

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 cities are the best destinations for innovation based on their underlying index score.

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

The first 37% cities are ranked in 2011 for 3 classes. The other 63% are scored and classified into 3 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 each year since 2009 (and further improvements planned 2012).

What makes this index an innovative approach?

The index will evolve over time, as innovation changes. It is designed to be flexible, and evolve. Examining cities by segment is unique.

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, in 2012 cities will be able to request and complete a brief word document survey to ensure 2thinknow analysts have the latest information. All scoring is done by analysts based on a process.

Why are analyst rankings are better than surveys?

2thinknow analysts have a professional logical framework, and are using professional tools. While we use popular local sources, we always access these in a global comparative context.

Why does 2thinknow city analysis favour innovation over livability rankings?

Our analysts measure urban innovation economies, and the indexes are a headline score for that. Urban innovation economies are dynamic places to live work and play.

Should I move to a Nexus or Hub city?

The classification is a general guide. Specifics depend on industries you and your family work in, and family factors. The long-term employment prospects in your industry, as well as your preferred weather and culture should inform your decisions. Many Germans move to Sydney, despite originating from the more highly ranked Frankfurt or Hamburg.

Should I use index rankings to move from one culture to another?

You could, but bear in mind that culture's require readjustment. Moving from Beijing to San Francisco may be easier than Pittsburgh to Beijing. Some cities such as Sydney, Hong Kong and Singapore are expat-friendly, some less so. We are not measuring this.

Can you give me an analogy for difference between cities?

Classification is as subjective as the marking of economics term papers. There may be not much difference between a HD / A+ and Dn / A score, but there is a difference between a A and B, and moreso between an A and C score. Similarly a Nexus and Hub are like an A+, A, B+ and Node is like a paper ranked B or C (but still a comfortable high pass!)

Are there any Fail cities?

Yes, and we include some of these to calibrate our cities Index. Some civila-war plagued dictator cities in Africa fall into this category.

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 2011 Index methodology different from 2009 and 2010?

They were broadly the same. Obviously, the economy has changed in many cities, and these shifts have been considered. This is mainly in the weightings and zeitgeist factors.

Do you use statistics?

Yes. Many indicators include quantitative data such as GDP per capita, population, unemployment rate or Gini co-efficient. For the free index, we may also use national statistics, some of which we localize estimates for cities and urban centres.

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

Where city-level data is available for Index we use it. If it is not state data is used. If state data is not available national data is used. We use proprietary benchmarking approaches, rather than relying solely on statistics.

Is City Benchmarking Data the same as Index data?

All City Benchmarking Data ordered by customers is city-based data. Customer-ordered city benchmarking data uses more data points per Indicator than the Index data-set, and includes added analysis, as well as graphs, slides and more.

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. Equity is the sleeper issue, which has lead to unrest in 2011 globally, and if economic conditions worsen unrest is a 60% probability of becoming a serious issue for 5-8% of benchmark cities in 2012-2014 until addressed.

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.

Can I change the urban boundaries?

Yes, all city benchmarking data allows you to customise urban boundaries based on different definitions.

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.

Why has Kingston Upon Hull been renamed from 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. In 2011, following comments from academics we renamed the city to Kingston-upon-Hull. We still include the larger economic zone East Riding including of the outer-most seaport in the region formed laterally across the U.K. from Liverpool to the mouth of the Humber.

I am not clear on which city you mean, as there are more than one city with the same name?

Historically, we refer to the larger population center. Where this may not be clear we include the state. If you not clear please advise us, so we may correct the tables, or issue an errata. Occasionally our analysts use an uncommon spelling of a city or administrative region, so if you believe a spelling should be changed to the more common name, please advise us also.

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 2-5 years, or greater. Many residents often assess their cities differently based on their opinions.

Do you measure patents?

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 trialled in 2010, and will update in 2011. Tell us what you think.

How are Turkish cities classified regionally?

Istanbul is classified under Europe, all other Turkish cities under Emerging with the Mid-East.

How are Israeli cities classified?

Tel Aviv and Israel are listed under Europe.

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.

Any corrections to the Index?

We have updated in all files a typographical error for Charlottesville. The Index refers to Charlottesville in Virginia, home to the University of Virginia. This bug occurred in 2010 as well, and hopefully will not recur again.

Are there any further typographical or classification errors?

We have previously published an errata in 2010, so if you notice an error in 2011, please advise our analysts here.

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.

Are there any naming decisions for twin or tri-cities?

In most cases integrated 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 the administrative regional name has been used -- not the major city. Population is normally based on the larger geographical area for the Index, however all customer-ordered City Benchmarking Data can use multiple population definitions.

How about Osaka, Kobe and Japanese cities?

Due to the tight lean manufacturing links of the whole Japanese economy (distance is less relevant within island of Japan), yet separate government prefectures, we have listed some Japanese cities as separate entities. e.g. Osaka and Kobe which are nearby.

Can you explain the omission of some Japanese cities?

We seek the cultural points of difference between Japanese cities based on a socio-cultural demographic model of innovation. Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe for example all have significant cultural differences, within an integrated Japanese economy. Other Japanese cities in 2011 which may score at Hub or Node level have been subsumed into nearby populations for Index purposes.

What would be the effect of combining Osaka and Kobe?

The combined city would move up the Index scores.

What about Shanghai and Suzhou?

These we have also treated as separate political and economic entities for the Index (and in terms of Chinese administration). The net effect of agglomerating would be different than Japan, and would not significantly change Shanghai (which is a Nexus in 2011 and 2010).

What about San Francisco Bay Area vs. Oakland?

This includes the area from San Francisco Bay through Menlo Park, to Cupertino etc and to San Jose. In other words, this SF Bay Area is what is mostly termed Silicon Valley. However, for the Index we have excluded Oakland. This is different to 2009 and 2010, and significantly different to 2007 /08. Oakland and the surrounding cities are a separate entity in the Index. Were we to change the classifications this would affect the score.

I have a suggestion for naming the city better, or a better grouping, can I submit it?

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

Can I order data for any urban agglomeration?

Yes! 2thinknow city benchmarking data is available to order for any major municipal classification, irrespective of the Index classifications. In many cases we hold data that can be used for various population definitions.