Richard Florida and his research partner, Dr. Kevin Stolarick, have collaborated on various occasions to examine the relationships between what a particular location has to offer and the amount of talent attracted to that location. One of the major takeaways from Florida’s work is that the ‘creative class’, comprising of a spectrum of professionals including entrepreneurs, doctors and artists, is an essential wellspring for economic growth as they promote innovation. The creativity and innovative abilities of people are resources that can be continually tapped on: those that are not reliant on the physical environment, and most of all, those that have almost unlimited reach and flexibility.
The creative class, as per Florida’s definition, is comprised of the 3T’s of economic growth: technology, talent, and tolerance. According to Florida, technology plays a fundamental role in economic growth. Talent, however, is considered to be a consequence of human capital. In this view, the role of cities is to bring together human capital and augment it, and it is found that places with more human capital grow more rapidly than those with less. In this sense, urbanization is a key element of innovation and productivity growth. As for the third T, tolerance, it is agreed that it’s the key factor in enabling places to mobilize and attract technology and talent. It is safe to conclude that what enables a place to thrive and gain economic leverage is by itself, which in turn will pave the way for technology to evolve, and/or vice versa. To achieve an innovative city, in this sense, the creative class could not stand alone, as it needs to be surrounded by a sustainable ecosystem, proper regulatory framework, proper facility, and vision towards future to achieve the desired objectives.
The reason why innovation has become such an integral part of our daily lives is plain to see: human beings in general are equipped with that resonant need to always be one step ahead.
It is that constant need to strive, to persist, to be able to create something that will benefit the society. It is human nature to want to contribute to the growth of a community and make an impact, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant it may be.
Judging from the quick ascent of cities development during the last two decades, it should then come as no surprise that with the right amount of incentives available within a city, innovated people would find their niche. Innovation enhances productivity and attracts more profit, which leads to the city’s economic development. Furthermore, innovation itself is increasingly found and believed to be determining a city’s prominence compared to others in terms of global competitiveness. When a city is being considered as innovative, it is usually a given that its citizens will also find the best in everything - productive environment, great quality of life, which will then lead to a surge of creativity and human talent.
With these factors in mind, we can safely assume that for an innovative mind to constantly be inspired and stimulated, an encouraging environment is paramount. It takes one location to produce a big impact, something that we have come to quickly understand during the process of this study.
Why is it important to live in an innovative city?
CHARLES HAMPDEN TURNER: For one, it’s much more fun. Innovating is one of the most challenging things indeed. It’s full of danger and disappointment and a lot of failure, that’s why it’s very exciting. In a city you need a lot of new people, a lot of new ideas, you have concentrations of information in one place, you have libraries and museums, you have plays, films, you have a large number of people highly specialized living in one place. Under those circumstances, lots of ideas will occur to you.
Who do you think are the engines that help a city to be innovative?
CHT: There are two views - the Western view which is created by the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and these are very aggressive, very ambitious individuals, in that they are college dropouts who didn’t have the patience to finish their college work, and they defy the lucid/usual opinion, gather people around them and succeed. I think that’s a bit biased and there’s some prejudice towards the rest. I’m a little more interested in the Philippines, or the Chinese population which creates 70% of the world - there has to be something about the way the Chinese minority population organizes themselves. There is something within a community, within a group, that makes it very creative. I think whatever China has that’s caused it to do so well, or like Singapore, to have such an impact on economy, really has to do with group thoughts.
What have the most innovative cities achieved to get an innovative ecosystem?
CHT: It depends upon what you are looking for. Take a city like Cambridge, where I am now, it’s developed 1200 companies since 1975: these were viewed as all high-tech and all based on knowledge that generated by the university, this is not a recent fact. It’s happened at Route 28 in Boston, in Silicon Valley around Stanford, and very similar patterns around Stockholm, Paris, Toulouse… You tend to have a source of knowledge in the center, then you have a pool of skills all the way around and this is what I believe engages with new knowledge, new developments on the curb - and the first person to put two pieces of knowledge together, to create a third piece, will be a successful navigator. To build a pool of skills, you need what’s called a caste and you need a very rich pool of skills. That’s why in America for example, 85% of all of its innovations come from about 10% of its urban centers. So if you took out Seattle, Silicon Valley, New York, Colorado, Boston, Texas – there’d be almost nothing left.
How can we measure the innovative ecosystem of a city?
CHT: You need a great diversity of talents, you need a melting pot, you need the city to be highly cosmopolitan. Innovation consists of combining two or more elements that have never been combined before. The more ideas you have in one place, the more thoughts, concepts and research and findings and data, the more you have in one particular place, the more likely you’ll find a vital combination between them. That’s why cities are much more creative than the countryside, the rural areas. What happens in a city is that there are lots and lots of different people, different ideas, different thoughts, different disciplines, different products of knowledge; all jumbled up against each other and form new combinations. It’s the new combinations of ideas that previously were so far caught that they’re being thought of putting them together. The ideas have to be distant from each other, so much so that no one has thought of combining them before, and perhaps there are many of them, and they have to form new combinations. That’s what happens in a city.