The future of innovation belongs to the mega-city29 October, 2014 / Articles
Future. By 2030, according to the UN, there will be 41 mega-cities around the world with populations of greater than 10 million people. Not only will these mega-cities control the lion’s share of the world’s global economic and financial resources, they will also largely determine the future of innovation — and that could have a major impact on how we think about America’s hub-and-spoke model of innovation.
If you think about how innovation works in America, a relatively small metropolitan area such as Austin or Seattle (both of which do not rank among America’s 10 biggest cities by population) can have a disproportionate impact on the future of national innovation. That’s a pattern repeated around the country, as even smaller metropolitan areas — places like Raleigh-Durham or Chattanooga — also play an important role in pushing forward U.S. innovation. Even freewheeling Silicon Valley has always been based on its density of ideas, not the density of its population.
Yet, all the current trends suggest that this uniquely American system of innovation, in which innovation is so geographically diverse and spread out across so many hubs, is about to sustain a major challenge from the relentless pace of urbanization around the world. Just 40 years ago, there were only 3 mega-cities in the world: New York, Tokyo and Mexico City. Now there are 28, and there are plenty more waiting in the wings. It’s now become conventional wisdom that cities are the engines of growth, progress, jobs and prosperity. And the bigger the cities are, the bigger is that potential engine.