Mike Wardle, Professor Michael Mainelli

Published by
Long Finance & Distributed Futures (June 2021), 45 pages.

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Smart Centres Index 3

The third edition of the Smart Centres Index (SCI 3) was published on 16 June 2021. SCI 3 rates the innovation and technology offerings of leading commercial and financial centres across the world.

The SCI focuses on centres in relation to their approach to and delivery of innovation and technology, including Science, Energy Systems, Machine Learning, Distributed Ledgers, and Fintech, along with other applications. We look at cities rather than countries in developing the index as we consider that it is in cities and other commercial clusters that the development of business is driven forward.

The Smart Centres Index is based on evaluations of three dimensions:

  • Innovation support - the approach taken to regulation and support for the innovation and technology industry provided by the commercial ecosystem.
  • Creative Intensity - the extent to which technology and innovative industries are embedded in the economy of the centre.
  • Delivery Capability - the quality of the work being undertaken in the field in the centre.

131 commercial and financial centres were researched for SCI 3 of which 51 are included in the index. SCI 3 was compiled using 127 instrumental factors. These quantitative measures are provided by third parties including the World Bank, The Economist Intelligence Unit, the OECD, and the United Nations.

The instrumental factors are combined with financial centre assessments provided by respondents to the GFCI online questionnaire. SCI 3 uses 1,971 assessments from 280 respondents.

SCI 3 Results

  • London regained its first position in the index with New York falling to second place. Oxford, Stockholm, Hong Kong, and Cambridge have overtaken Singapore, which fell from third to seventh place.
  • New York is now the only US centre in the top 10, with Stockholm and Dublin replacing Los Angeles and Chicago in this group.
  • The cluster of innovation activity between London, Oxford, and Cambridge, sometimes called the ‘Golden Triangle’ is shown in the index results. We will consider further how to reflect the fact of this cluster in future editions of the SCI.
  • A number of centres that have entered the index for the first time have entered in high positions. Our experience with this type of research suggests that new centres are likely to fall back slightly in the rankings in subsequent editions.

North America

  • Seattle has joined the index for the first time, ranking 16th overall. 11 North American centres feature in SCI 3.
  • All US centres fell in the rankings as other centres entered the index or improved their position.


  • Bangkok and Sydney rose in the SCI rankings, while other centres fell.
  • Seoul, Tianjin, Osaka, and Busan entered the SCI for the first time.
  • Some Chinese centres, including Shenzhen, which have strong technology ecosystems, do not feature as highly in the index as we might have expected. This may be because those rating Chinese centres know Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai better than other centres.

Western Europe

  • Seven Western European centres featured in the world top 10 in SCI 3.
  • Lugano, Malta, Berlin, and Vienna are new entrants to the index.

Middle East & Africa

  • Tel Aviv leads this region, although it fell seven places in SCI 3 to 18th, and is challenged by Dubai in 20th place.
  • Abu Dhabi and Riyadh join the SCI for the first time in SCI 3.

Eastern Europe & Central Asia

  • Sofia, Budapest, Warsaw, and Istanbul are new entrants to the index, joining Moscow. Other than Sofia, ranked 28th, centres in the region mostly sit in the lower half of the rankings.

Latin America & The Caribbean

  • Mexico City joins the Cayman Islands as the only two centres in the region to feature in the SCI. Cayman Islands improved its rating considerably, although its ranking remained at 42nd.


The Smart Centres Index focuses on financial and commercial centres across the world in relation to their approach to and delivery of innovation and technology, including Science, Energy Systems, Machine Learning, Distributed Ledgers, and Fintech, along with other applications.

The SCI takes into account the three dimensions of Innovation Support, Creative Intensity and Delivery Capability. In broad terms, centres in North America and Western Europe score well for innovation Support and Delivery Capability but vary in terms of their Creative Intensity. Centres in China in particular score lower for Innovation Support.

Leading centres in the SCI are based in places which combine a high performing university sector across STEM subjects, with well-developed regulatory, commercial and financial services.