New York has received the top prize for its foreign direct investment (FDI) strategy in the 2021/2022 edition of fDi’s Global Cities of the Future ranking. This decision has been reached by a panel of seven independent experts who reviewed more than 40 submissions from cities around the globe. The city stands out thanks to a truly diverse range of FDI initiatives, from traditional tax and income incentives to innovative sector-specific programmes and events. 

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Cyber and science


New York clearly has a strong vision for the future, aligning its incentives with promising sectors such as cyber security and life sciences. The foundation for New York’s winning FDI strategy originates in its cross-departmental ‘Business Intelligence and Development Program’, which comprises experts in real estate, investment incentives and workforce development, in addition to industry specialists. The team targets international entrepreneurs through the ‘IN2NYC’ programme, connecting entrepreneurs with universities, incubators, accelerators and labs.

This public–private approach is continued with the city’s LifeSci NYC and CyberNYC programmes. LifeSci NYC fosters industry partnerships between medical research institutes, life science companies, venture capital firms and early-stage life science companies. Similarly, CyberNYC provides a match-making service between New York-based Fortune 500 companies and start-ups, helping develop the next generation of cyber security talent. Both of these programmes include events and bespoke spaces to encourage community and connection. 

One such flagship event is ‘NYCxDESIGN’, a design week attracting well over a quarter of a million visitors. The programme is the ideal launchpad for new designers and is a positive spotlight on the industry’s talents. 

In addition to the city’s tremendous programmes and events, New York also provides more traditional fare for would-be investors, such as income and business tax incentives through the state’s economic development agency, real estate and construction tax incentives, and a foreign trade zone which is the fifth largest in the US for warehouse and distribution activity. 


Montréal has been awarded second place for FDI Strategy, following on from the city’s success in the 2020 fDi Strategy Awards. The economic development agency Montréal International reports that in 2019, 27% of its projects would not have been established had it not been for their support; its results-driven culture has led to the city developing a cohesive strategy to encourage investment into selected sectors.


The city certainly has a view to long-term sustained growth, focusing on burgeoning sectors such as video games, artificial intelligence and health technologies. Montréal’s chosen sectors rely on a highly educated and dynamic workforce, with the city launching its ‘Talent Montréal’ initiative. The city also offers sector-specific tax credits, in addition to direct financial support. 

The panel has deemed Montréal the best location for digital and multimedia activities to attract investors. Montréal’s investment potential is showcased in an impressive range of online offerings, with web portals featuring impact videos, demographic data, talent pool statistics, interactive tools and webinars.

Montréal’s ability to influence investor decisions has also been noted by the judging panel. Montréal International cites the example of assisting a senior executive and his family in relocating to the city to oversee a business expansion. By offering personalised services, such as operational advice, assistance with tax and financial incentives, support services to hire foreign workers and communication services, Montréal was rewarded by the company planning to relocate its headquarters to the city. 


Berlin has secured the third spot for FDI Strategy, showing a tremendous commitment to its businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The public–private partnership Berlin Partner has established a telephone hotline and provides support for Berlin’s development bank IBB’s hotline. The city reports that by August 2020, more than 15,000 companies had received advice through the hotlines.

The city has also launched a matching platform for jobs in crisis-related and system-relevant areas. In addition to emergency funding schemes during the pandemic, Berlin offers a ‘GRW Program’ of grants in order to support the creation of permanent jobs, as well as a ‘ProFIT’ project financing program to assist R&D projects, cementing its reputation as an innovation hub. 

The panel has deemed Berlin to offer the best aftercare, with a specific aftercare and retention team supporting existing companies and investors. Berlin Partner’s consultants guide investors and companies through their entire project, supporting them in each step from finding premises and financing options to recruitment and administrative matters. 

Honourable mentions

The city of Debrecen, Hungary, has also impressed judges with its aftercare strategy, after showing a commitment to fostering collaboration in the business community with events such as the Business Expat Club and the monthly Debrecen Business Services Center Roundtable. In addition, quarterly organised roundtables to allow leaders in human resources the opportunity to share experiences and learning. The city’s all-inclusive approach to helping companies locate offices, and offer support services and employer branding is an indication of the level of aftercare support businesses can hope to find. 

Dubai’s success with regards to infrastructure and urban development projects has also been noted by the judges, particularly with investments in more green development projects, such as their Green Dubai Project and the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary development.

This article first appeared in the February/March print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here.