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By 2050, approximately two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities — up from just over half right now.
That demographic shift means it’s especially important for urban centers to start preparing for the future through infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, policy making, environmental protections and other forward-looking strategies.
A new report from AT Kearney, a global business consulting firm, ranks 125 cities based on both their current performance and their projected levels of future competitiveness. The two rankings are determined by the cities’ scores across various data points — the current list factors in things like the number of political conferences a city holds and how many Fortune 500 companies it has, while the future list looks at the rate of change of indicators like patents per capita and environmental performance.
To determine the top cities of the future, AT Kearney calculated scores in four categories: personal well-being, economics, innovation and governance.
These are the cities to keep an eye on in the coming years.
25. Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver’s rise in entrepreneurship helped it edge from 27th in 2015’s future outlook ranking into this year’s top 25. On June 15, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced an agreement to invest $900 million Canadian dollars in the city’s transit infrastructure, which is likely to improve its scores in the years ahead.
24. Copenhagen, Denmark
AT Kearney’s report designates 14 cities as “smart,” suggesting that each one “places technology at the core of its development strategy.” Copenhagen made that list this year; the other “smart” European cities included are Barcelona, Brussels, London, Paris and Vienna.
23. Taipei, Taiwan
Though it ranks 43rd in the index of current performance, Taipei improved its scores in the metrics of environmental performance, entrepreneurship and patents per capita, which allowed it to edge into the top 25.
22. Brussels, Belgium
This year, Brussels took the global lead in government transparency for the first time. The city also hosts the most political conferences compared to the rest of the list. In 2015, Brussels saw improvements in its infrastructure and environmental performance as well.
21. Los Angeles, United States
While environmental performance slowed in many cities over the past year, LA has improved in this area. The city showed a decrease in stability and security, however — homicides and gang violence have been on the rise, though L.A. is not the only city experiencing an increase in crime.
20. Dallas, United States
Dallas didn’t make the top 25 last year, but an increase in its potential for innovation caused it to shoot up nine slots in the future outlook ranking. Google has noticed the city’s potential, too — on June 14, the company announced a partnership with the city to look into the feasibility of installing high-speed fiber-based internet.
19. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is ranked fourth in the current performance index, and its population currently has the most advanced degrees. The governor of the Japanese capital resigned on June 15, however, because of a spending scandal. Yoichi Masuzoe is the second leader of Tokyo’s municipal government to leave office due to a financial scandal in the last few years.
18. Toronto, Canada
Enrepreneurship in Toronto has increased over the past year, and some financial experts suggest that the city is poised to become a new tech hub. The city is also often cited as an environmental leader — a law enacted in 2010 requires all new buildings (except individual homes) to have green roofs.
17. Singapore, Malaysia
Though Singapore is one of only two Asian cities in the “Global Elite” (Tokyo is the other), its environmental performance decreased over the past year, causing it to drop from the 14th spot to the 17th. It currently leads the world, however, in AT Kearney’s calculation of online presence.
16. Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva leads the pack in the governance category, along with Zurich. Both Swiss cities also have high numbers of broadband subscribers and the best access to TV news, which contributes to their ranking in the index of current performance.
15. Melbourne, Australia
2016 is the first year that Melbourne has led the world in one of the ranking’s four categories: personal well-being. That means Melbourne is improving a combination of infrastructure, GDP per capita and foreign direct investment faster than any other city on the planet.
14. Berlin, Germany
Like Amsterdam, London and Paris, Berlin is also among Europe’s “Global Elite” cities. Berlin is known for its eco-friendly policies, but the rate at which the city is improving its environmental performance slowed over the past year. It will most likely remain a global leader in sustainability, however, since Germany plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050.
13. Paris, France
Paris currently leads the world in the category of information exchange, which includes metrics like freedom of expression, number of news agency bureaus and online presence. It’s ranked number three on the report’s index of current performance, and jumped from 19th to 13th in its future outlook because of increases in entrepreneurship and foreign direct investment.
12. Sydney, Australia
Of all the cities studied, Sydney showed the fastest rate of improvement in its environmental performance over the past five years (tied only with Melbourne). That effort has turned the city into a global leader in that area.
11. Chicago, United States
Private investments and entrepreneurship both increased in Chicago over the past year, catapulting the city from 17th to 11th in its future outlook ranking. Like San Francisco, Boston, and New York, it is also among the US cities in the “Global Elite.”
10. Zurich, Switzerland
According to the report, Zurich is on track to be a future leader in the governance category (as is Geneva). That’s because its policies make doing business easy, its institutions are transparent, and its bureaucracy functions well compared to other cities. Residents of Zurich also have the best access to TV news and most commonly subscribe to broadband, two of the factors that contributes to cities’ current performance rankings (in which Zurich is 31st).
9. Munich, Germany
Munich is tied with Houston and Shenzhen, China as the city with the most patents filed per capita. But its ranking in the future outlook list decreased from seventh to ninth this year due to negative environmental performance.
8. Amsterdam, Netherlands
The report designates 15 cities as a “Global Elite,” since they all rank in the top 25 for both the current index and future outlook. Amsterdam counts itself among those leaders; it has seen recent increases in both private and foreign direct investment. Though the city has struggled to improve its air quality, eco-friendly startups are cropping up. According to The Atlantic’s CityLab, a new project is placing air pollution-monitoring birdhouses around the city; if the levels improve, the birdhouses will automatically provide free WiFi as an incentive.
7. Stockholm, Sweden
Similarly to Atlanta, Sweden’s capital city has also seen improvements in every indicator of innovation. It also currently leads the world in freedom of expression, a metric that factors into the ranking of cities’ current performance.
6. Atlanta, United States
Atlanta saw increases in all three data sets that determine a city’s potential for innovation: patents per capita, private investments and university-sponsored incubators. Those improvements caused it to jump an impressive ten slots higher in the list since last year.
5. Houston, United States
Houston leads the world in GDP per capita, which is an important factor in the report’s calculations of personal well-being. Over the past year, Houston also seen a rise in the number of patents filed per capita.
4. London, England
In AT Kearney’s ranking of current city performance (rather than future outlook), London overtook New York City for the first time since 2008 to claim the top spot. But a decrease in its environmental performance put it behind New York and Boston in evaluations of the city’s future potential.
3. Boston, United States
According to AT Kearney’s calculations, entrepreneurship flourished in Boston over the past year, though the city also ranked third in 2015.
“But it improved that position a bit from last year,” Dessibourg-Freer notes, highlighting that Boston’s total score increased from the previous report. Overall, cities’ scores across the board have been rising over time.
2. New York City, United States
Between 2015 and 2016, New York jumped up two slots in the ranking, from fourth to second. “That was driven by a lot of growth and improvement in business activity,” Dessibourg-Freer explains. “New York is already considered one of our economic epicenters. Similar to San Francisco, they’d already been a leader and improved their leadership position.”
1. San Francisco, United States
This is the sixth year that AT Kearney has released this type of ranking. Nicole Dessibourg-Freer, who managed the data team that worked on the report, says San Francisco consistently tops the list.
“The big thing that we keep seeing year over year is the really impressive strength in innovation,” she says of the city’s position at the top. “Maybe it’s obvious to us as people who live in the US, but San Francisco is just such a hub for innovation. They’re pretty consistently number one in that.”
The 25 cities with the best outlook for future performance:
On a big-picture level, the ranking is meant to serve as a starting point for conversation.
“I think it’s helpful for folks to see where cities fall and have a discussion on what’s going well in Mexico City, or what’s so interesting about Singapore that can be used as potential best practices or innovative trends for other cities,” Dessibourg-Freer says.