New York (2nd) and Paris (3rd) take the other top slots in IESE Business School’s index, which tracks the sustainability of urban centers and the quality of life of their citizens
London tops the list of the world’s smartest cities, followed by New York and Paris, according to the 2024 edition of IESE’s Cities in Motion Index. The gauge ranks 183 cities in 92 countries on a range of criteria linked to the vibrancy of their economies and the quality of life for their inhabitants.
Five cities in the top 10 are European: London (1st), Paris (3rd), Berlin (5th), Oslo (7th) and Amsterdam (8th). Three are in the United States: New York (2nd), San Francisco (9th) and Chicago (10th). Tokyo comes in 4th and Singapore 6th in the ranking prepared by IESE Business School’s Center for Globalization and Strategy and co-authored by professors Pascual Berrone and Joan Enric Ricart.
Now in its ninth edition, the study provides a tool for urban planners, politicians, and citizens to track the interplay of factors that help to forge the most vibrant, sustainable, fair and livable urban communities on the planet.
Europe accounts for 26 of the cities in the top 50, while North America is home to a further 14. The remainder are in Asia (Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, Shanghai) and Australia (Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra).
Meanwhile, the world's developing countries continue to struggle to break into the top spots. Among Latin American cities, the highest-ranked is Santiago (91st), followed by Buenos Aires (115th) and Montevideo (119th). Cape Town (141st) is the highest-ranked city in Africa.Key points of the 2024 rankings:
- London stands out for the excellence of its international profile, human capital and urban planning. The UK capital also ranks among the top five for economy, governance, and mobility and transportation, underscoring its position as a vibrant hub of modern urban life.
- New York’s powerful economy and international profile, and the excellence of its human capital, urban planning and mobility and transportation systems, underpin the city’s strong showing in the index. The score for Paris, meanwhile, demonstrates its strengths in areas including international influence, economic performance and public transport.
- Among the main movers in the top 50 cities since the last report in 2022, Melbourne jumps 19 places to 19th, and Hong Kong falls 17 places to 37, even as it tops the ranking for technology. Austin jumps 24 places to 45.
- The report shows how even the world’s smartest cities continue to face challenges. New York, for example, ranks 112 in terms of social cohesion, while London, lies in 53rd place for technology.
- By the different dimensions studied in the report, London comes top for human capital, international profile and urban planning, New York for economy, Edinburgh for social cohesion, Reykjavik for environment, Bern for governance, Hong Kong for technology and Beijing for mobility and transportation.
- The report notes that global conflicts, such as those in Ukraine and Palestine, require an urban response that goes beyond traditional diplomacy and requires cities to promote peace and stability through solidarity and support for affected communities.
The latest results can be explored in an online map, where it's possible to compare cities and drill down to see scores within each of the nine dimensions. The Cities in Motion Index (CIMI) calculator is a tool that allows users to enter indicator data for a city and discover how it would rank based on this input. The calculator can also be used to show how a city's ranking might change if different inputs are employed.
As the authors say, each city is unique and inimitable and must design its own plan for how to thrive, while being flexible enough to adapt to change. The human factor, as ever, plays a key role.“Beyond technological and economic development, citizens are the key to taking cities from smart to wise,’’ they write in the report. “This is precisely the goal that every city should pursue—to get local residents and leaders to deploy all their talents in the pursuit of progress.”