Innovation Cities™ Classifications

The Innovation Cities™ Index each year classifies all cities into 4 classes for innovation.


Cities at the top few percentage globally.

A critical nexus for multiple economic and social innovation pre-conditions across multiple industry segments.


Challenger cities, innovating in key segments.

Dominance or influence on key economic and social innovation industry and department areas, based on current global trends.

Node Cities

Globally competitive cities.

Globally competitive with competitive performance across many innovation segments.


Cities moving towards being globally competitive.

Cities that are not quite globally competitive yet, but with broad improvement across multiple indicators can achieve Node Status.

For an Upstart to become a Node, simple improvements need to be made in a variety of indicators, improving the cities innovation potential and economic opportunity.

All cities outside this are ‘Unclassified’.


Classifications are the best indicator of a cities ‘interchangeability’ as an innovation destination. Cities within the same category are have similar potential for innovation. However, cities are ranked to clarify this, with more difference between cities occurring within the top 100 (less points separate cities in each group below 100 cities).

All major and many growing cities are included. No city that would qualify as Nexus is excluded. Some cities contain within them more than one urban area -e.g. Dallas-Fort Worth.

Cities ranked outside these 4 performance are ‘Unclassified’.

Fuller explanations of each classification are available in the FAQ accompanying the year’s Index.


2thinknow analysts have ranked the top cities since 2007. Since 2012-2013 all cities have been ranked.

Each year since 2009, analyst classifications of all major global cities are released as the Innovation Cities™ Index (on this site). The top two tiers cities are Nexus and Hub cities. Node cities are globally competitive.

*Please note a 5th Influencer category existed between Node and Upstart, prior to 2016 and now has been combined with Upstart.