From Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley, and Berlin’s hip coffee shops to East London’s Silicon Roundabout, the world is well versed in the global innovation boom towns. But have you heard of what’s going on in Cyprus, Sweden or North Carolina?
Today, with the decentralising nature of the Internet, distributed cloud technology and a growing sentiment toward entrepreneurship, the global startup ecosystem has never been so dispersed. What’s the magic formula that helps a city to incubate innovation? Is it the low rent prices, stable infrastructure, education facilities or weather conditions? Perhaps it’s a complex algorithm of all of the above?
From the Far East to the Mediterranean, we found 8 cities where technology’s influence is growing by the minute, and the world should start paying close attention.
1. Eindhoven, Netherlands
Dubbed by Forbes as the most inventive city in the world due to its "patent intensity", Eindhoven is a hotbed for hardware design and high-tech innovation. In the future, biodegradable implants known as Bioneedles may replace the syringe, needle and vial vaccination - a reduction of HIV infection and hepatitis are among the benefits attributed to this cheap and safe technology. And this is just one of the many pioneering technologies surfacing out of this mid-sized Southern city of the Netherlands. It’s home to hot startups like leading 3D printing marketplace Shapeways, interactive education service Gynzy and real-time advertising platform Flxone.
2. Pune, India
Move over Bangalore, there’s a new Indian metropolis evolving with its finger on the pulse of cloud, mobile and digital technologies. With its young demographic, acclaimed university, flourishing nightlife and convenient connection to the financial centre of Mumbai, Pune is attracting a pool of startups and fresh IT talent. Startups range from award-winning data software Druva to telecommunication hardware Swipe. Known as India’s first ‘Wi-Fi City’ after the Unwiring Pune project was instigated in 2006, the city’s Wi-Fi coffee shop culture and affordable standard of living add to its entrepreneurial appeal.
3. Nicosia, Cyprus
Despite its recent financial crisis, the WIPO cites Cyprus as a country showing great potential in intellectual property and technology output. Companies like NCR and TSYS have caught on, choosing the Mediterranean island capital for their regional headquarters. With its high per-capita income, favourable tax system, sophisticated infrastructure and low business set-up costs the possibilities are prime in Cyprus.
Bitcoin marketers Neo & Bee will open their first real-life branch in Nicosia later this month, a place where the use of the virtual currency is already creeping into everyday life.
4. Dublin, Ireland
Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Linkedin have all established their European headquarters in this Irish capital. Lower taxes and living costs, in comparison to its English neighbour, are what urged this move originally.
But now more and more tech companies cite a pool of talent and the Irish Venture Capital Association’s investment tendencies as reasons for the city's appeal. The city also hosts the must-go tech conferences Web Summit and F.ounders. Accelerator facilities like Dog Patch Labs, launched by leading US venture capital firm Polaris Venture Partners, host music discovery platform Seevl, Guitar Hero-like software Riffstation and big data management tool Logentries, to name a few.
5. Raleigh, North Carolina
Affordable housing, short commutes and the title of No.1 U.S. city for young families are all triggers for the flock of technology companies and university graduates to Raleigh. Over the past two decades, Raleigh has experienced the third-highest job growth and second-highest population increase in the country. It's also part of the North Carolina Research Triangle, one of the most prominent U.S. research parks pioneering in IT and biotechnology. The region (known as Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) is anchored by cutting-edge research institutions from surrounding universities, growing high-tech companies like Bandwith and Yealink as well as Fortune 100 companies IBM, Cisco, Sony Ericsson and many more.
6. Hong Kong
Beijing may be the historical innovation hotspot of the Far East, but recently this focus has shifted to Hong Kong. Its easy-breezy business climate paired with incredibly fast Internet speeds, a lack of censorship and plenty of trading tycoons are all contributing factors its growth. Hong Kong is a booming breeding ground for startups, with global venture programs like StartMeUpHK offering resources and companies such as Burg Limited paving the way for wearable tech.
7. Malmö, Sweden
Ranked as the fourth on the list of cities with most patent applications per 10,000 residents —after Eindhoven, San Francisco and San Diego— this southern Swedish city is both young and diverse. Almost half of Malmö’s population is under the age of 35 and boasts the highest proportion of foreign-born residents in the country. The third largest city in the country, it’s situated between the European capital Copenhagen and Swedish university town Lund. The region is teetering on the forefront of IT, mobile technology and life sciences. Once an industrial town transformed into a nucleus of young innovation, Malmö has attracted startups such as live video-streaming service Bambuser, stock photography platform Foap and micro-donation tool Flattr.
8. Tel Aviv, Israel
Perhaps its no longer as surprising, but with 5,000 startups the Silicon Wadi (‘Valley’ in Hebrew) of the Mediterranean is certainly worth a mention. It has the highest density of startups in the world and 61 companies in NASDAQ. From BillGuard’s crowdsourced personal finance security to Wix’s web publishing tool and Cardboard Technologies’ biodegradable bicycle, the startup landscape has a reputation of being the most inventive in the world. It’s no wonder Google invested top dollar in its 8,000 sq. meter Tel Aviv offices.
What other global cities are being put on the map of innovation? Where in the world will the next hotbed of tech or financial genius emerge? Perhaps we’ll be looking to Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Luxembourg, Toronto, Auckland, Beirut or Lagos?
By Lisa Roolant, a writer for TransferWise. Roolant is of Belgian origin, born and raised in Bangkok. She is also the creator of GypsyGeneration, a platform for globally inspired stories about creativity.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock