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London, NYC Ranked Most Global Cities; San Francisco, Boston Among Most Innovative

Image credit: A.T. Kearney

For the first time since A.T. Kearney’s first Global Cities Index in 2008, London overtook New York City to claim the top spot. London has steadily improved its performance in the 27 metrics across the five evaluated dimensions: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, and political engagement.1 While New York continued to lead in business activity and human capital, London was able to close the gap due to its leading position in cultural experience and increased political engagement. Paris ranked third and was the leader in the information exchange dimension.

Asian cities were not far behind, with Tokyo (4), Hong Kong (5), Singapore (8), Beijing (9), Seoul (11), and Shanghai (20) among the top 20. Except for Seoul, each of these cities was a leader in at least one of the Index’s metrics; for example, Hong Kong received top scores for air freight and the number of international schools, Tokyo led population with tertiary degrees, and Singapore led online presence.

London, Paris, Tokyo and Seoul have previously been recognized for their superior resource use compared to cities such as New York.

Meanwhile, San Francisco once again topped the Global Cities Outlook, which focuses on cities’ potential based on rates of change over the past five years and projections through 2026 for 13 indicators across four dimensions: personal well-being, economics, innovation and governance.2 Unsurprisingly, the city received the top score in the innovation dimension. London stood out in the economics dimension, while Geneva and Zurich received top scores in governance. For the first time, Melbourne led a dimension – personal well-being – aided by its strong environmental performance, for which Sydney was also a new leader in the 2016 ranking. Other new indicator leaders included Karachi, Pakistan for foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows and Brussels for government transparency. Bogotá held its leadership position for infrastructure, and Warsaw maintained its lead for ease of doing business.

Together the 2016 Index and Outlook evaluated 125 of the world’s largest and most influential cities and those primed to make an impact in the future. Just 15 ranked in the top quartile of both rankings this year, averaging 8.8 million in population and accounting for $7.3 trillion in Global Domestic Product (GDP), or about half of the GDP of all 55 high-income cities measured by Global Cities.

The 15 “Global Elite” include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco and Boston in the Americas; London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and Amsterdam in Europe; and Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, and Melbourne in Asia Pacific.
The 15 “Global Elite” include: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco and Boston in the Americas; London, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, and Amsterdam in Europe; and Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney, and Melbourne in Asia Pacific. | Image credit: A.T. Kearney

Each year, A.T. Kearney also seeks to use its rich database to identify emerging trends and provide insight on current topics of interest. This year, the firm investigated what makes a city “smart” through an analysis of 14 cities, and identified several leading characteristics that are expected to facilitate cities’ transformation into leading smart cities of the future.

Smart city leaders such as New York, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Singapore and others excelled in five dimensions: information exchange, human capital, business activity, governance, and personal well-being. Leading metrics that supported these traits – that is, metrics which nine or more of the 14 analyzed cities ranked in the top quartile of the Index or Outlook – included university scores, international student population, foreign-born residents, global service firms, business conferences, censorship, Google presence, quality of bureaucracy, ease of doing business, stability and security, healthcare evolution, and environmental performance.


1 Business activity and human capital each account for 30 percent, information exchange and cultural experience each account for 15 percent, and political engagement accounts for 10 percent of the metrics measured for the Index. Rank and score are determined by totaling the weighted averages of each dimension to yield a score on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being a perfect score.

2 Unlike in the Index, the Outlook’s dimensions are weighted equally; each accounts for 25 percent. Rank and score are determined by averaging the rate of change across each metric using the past five years’ data, then projecting out to 2026. Weighted averages applied to each dimension yield a score on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being a perfect score.


Hannah Furlong is an Editorial Assistant for Sustainable Brands, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]


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