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London tops smart and sustainable ranking

The UK capital leads IESE Business School’s Cities in Motion Index, ahead of New York and Amsterdam, but the study also highlights some shortcomings.

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London performed poorly when it comes to social cohesion and environment
London performed poorly when it comes to social cohesion and environment

London leads a ranking of smart and sustainable cities, earning top scores for its international outreach and human capital measures, and holds third position worldwide for its transport infrastructure.

 

The UK capital performed less well in other categories, though, in the IESE Business School’s Cities in Motion Index, which analysed 174 cities from 80 countries in a bid to identify the world’s smartest and most sustainable cities

 

Nine dimensions of a city

 

According to IESE’s findings, the UK, alongside the US and Germany, is one of the best-performing countries in number of cities taking top positions in the index. In all, eight UK cities – Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Nottingham – made the top 100.

 

The index analyses the level of development of the cities, across nine dimensions considered key to truly sustainable cities. These are: human capital (developing, attracting and nurturing talent); social cohesion (consensus among the different social groups in a city; economy; environment; governance; urban planning; international outreach; technology; and mobility and transportation (ease of movement and access to public services).

 

Though London leads the study, the IESE suggests the capital’s results are a mix of highs and lows. It receives top scores for its international outreach (in praise of Heathrow’s connections, the number of international events which take place in the city or air routes passing through the city) and human capital (thanks to the quality and quantity of its higher education centres, and its cultural offering).

City managers should have a long-term view to set the priorities for a sustainable future and collaboration is the cornerstone of success, with civic participation as "a power tool for transformation"

It figures strongly in mobility and transportation (position 3) and the economy (position 12). But performs poorly in the dimensions of social cohesion (position 45) which looks at population inequality and the environment (position 34).

 

As home to seven of the top 10 cities, Europe is the region that leads the ranking. According to the report, European cities score the most points for their quality of life and sustainability provisions. Looking at the top 50 positions, Europe’s dominance is still evident, with more than half of the cities (28) hailing from this continent.

 

After Europe comes North America with 13, Asia with five, and Oceania with four. Within Oceania, the top ranked city is Sydney (19). Trailing behind are the leaders of Latin America and Africa, which are Santiago de Chile (66) and Casablanca (155), respectively.

 

Open data platform praised

 

The report authors (professors Pascual Berrone and Joan Enric Ricart) praise efforts to make London more economically vibrant: it has more start-ups and programmers than almost any other city in the world and has an open data platform (London Datastore) that is used by more than 50,000 individuals, companies, researchers and developers every month.

 

The study finds the city has also made huge advances in transport with innovative solutions such as the Heathrow pods, capsules that work as a means of transit to connect with Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest in the world.

 

In addition, London has heavily invested in its public transport in, for example, one of Europe’s biggest construction projects (Crossrail), which will add 10 new train lines to the city to connect with 30 already existing stations toward the end of 2019.

 

According to the authors, the perfect city does not exist. Only an elite group – London, Amsterdam, Seoul and Vienna among them – manage to score relatively well in almost all the nine dimensions of city life evaluated.

Without citizens’ involvement, any strategy, no matter how smart or global it may be, will be destined for failure

Many others are notably unbalanced, they point out. For example, New York’s economy is booming, but its social cohesion leaves much to be desired (placing near the bottom of the list on the metric.)

 

In general, North American cities tend to stand out for their economic and human capital strengths, while European cities shine for their social cohesion, transportation (mobility) and public management.

 

The authors stress that city managers should have a long-term view in order to set the right priorities for a sustainable future. They also advise that collaboration is the cornerstone of success, with civic participation as a power tool for transformation. Without citizens’ involvement, any strategy, no matter how smart or global it may be, will be destined for failure.

 

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