London has won top billing in fDi and TNW’s Tech Cities of the Future for 2020/21, as its combination of capital, talent and infrastructure has proved unbeatable among European cities. 

Peers such as Paris and Dublin have, however, also developed a compelling proposition for innovators and start-ups. 

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The debut Tech Cities of the Future ranking is focused on finding those European cities with the most promising prospects for start-ups, tech and innovation investment. The ranking also marks fDi’s first collaboration with TNW, a media, events and intelligence company focused on new technology and start-ups, and will take the centre stage at TNW’s Ecosystem couch conference scheduled for June 25

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Attracting investment

The UK capital triumphed in the ranking, taking first place in five out of six categories. According to research from greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets, between 2015 and 2019, FDI in the software and IT services and communications sectors made up about 50% of London’s total inward FDI, reinforcing its status as a tech powerhouse. In 2019, tech investors in the city ranged from large multinationals Huawei Technologies, Facebook and Robert Bosch to smaller start-ups such as Chainalysis and Lilium Aviation.

According to data compiled by London & Partners, the UK capital is producing more unicorn tech companies (firms valued at more than $1bn) than any other European city. These companies include Monzo, Revolut, Deliveroo and Farfetch.

London continues to be a hotbed for innovation, with more than 5,000 patents in software and more than 100 in artificial intelligence registered in the city between 2003 and 2019. In addition, its reputation as a talent hub – hosting 370,000 students and five of the world’s top 500 universities in electric and electronic engineering – contributed to it ranking top in the Innovation and Attractiveness category. 

London also led in the Start-up Environment category. Figures from Dun & Bradstreet show the city boasts more than 70,000 companies in software and IT services, 5,000 in communications and almost 4,000 in research and development. According to research by TNW, access to capital is the main strength of its start-up ecosystem, with the average Series A funding round raising more than $11m.

As a global financial centre, London offers start-ups access to a wide-range of financing opportunities, from venture capital funds and angel investors to crowdfunding platforms and banks. Between 2015 and 2019, London attracted the highest amount of jobs from start-up companies (defined by this study as companies established from 2014 onwards) out of all 76 cities analysed.

R&D hub

Paris is deemed the second-ranking tech city. The French capital attracted 50 inward FDI projects in software research and development (R&D) between 2015 and 2019, the highest out of all locations studied.

Investors include Sweden-based Inex One, a provider of a software as a service procurement tool for advisory services, which opened a new engineering and R&D location in May 2019. Online food delivery app iFood, a subsidiary of South Africa-based Naspers, also opened a Paris research office in October 2019.

Paris also did well in the Economic Potential category – since investors can start a business there in just four days – as well as in Innovation & Attractiveness; the city has 10 of the world’s top 500 universities in computer science and engineering.

Potential and performance

Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland, places third in the study. The city ranked second in the Economic Potential category, with Ireland excelling in various country level data points, including the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom.

Dublin also shone in the FDI Performance category, with the highest level of capital investment in software R&D out of all locations analysed.

When Canada-based Traction Guest, a developer of enterprise visitor management systems, established operations in the city in December 2019, it commented: “Dublin is renowned for its thriving tech community, supportive business ecosystem and a talent-rich pool of technology professionals from all over Europe and beyond."

Methodology

To create a shortlist for fDi and TNW Tech Cities of the Future 2020/21, the fDi Intelligence division of the Financial Times collected data using the specialist online FDI tools – fDi Benchmark and fDiMarkets as well as other sources.

Data was collected for 76 locations, under five categories: Economic Potential, Innovation and Attractiveness, FDI Performance, Cost Effectiveness and Start-up Environment.

Locations scored up to a maximum of 10 points for each data point, which were weighted by importance to the FDI decision making process in order to compile the subcategory rankings. In addition, surveys were collected under a sixth category, FDI Strategy, for which there were 50 submissions.

Locations which ranked in the top 20 in this category were given bonus points, which contributed to their overall score. Together, the data subcategory rankings and the FDI Strategy ranking make up the overall fDi and TNW Tech Cities of the Future 2020/21 ranking.

The FT and TNW’s Ecosystems Couch Conference takes place on June 25