Data and insights on international science, technology, and innovation

Comparative research report of 20 global cities

This report, prepared by Elsevier in collaboration with the Administrative Center of Shanghai R&D Public Service Platforms, measured the 20 selected global cities’ technological innovation competitiveness from the perspective of research and enterprise R&D activities by some key indicators in science, technology, and innovation. To assess research strength, we focused on researcher productivity, research output performance, researcher mobility, and researcher collaborations. To assess enterprise, we focused on innovative companies, patenting activities, and academic–corporate collaboration.

The cities included in the report are Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka, Seoul, and Singapore from Asia; New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto from North America; and Berlin, London, Paris, Stockholm, Moscow, and Amsterdam from Europe.

Selected highlights from the report

This report is based on an earlier local report launched by the Center, which focused on the 2014–2018 period. To reflect the latest patterns and trends, Elsevier updated all the bibliometric analysis using data from 2016–2020* and used an updated methodology for the definition of cities. The analysis of patenting activities, which was conducted by the Center, was not updated.

*Exceptions to this are the periods for researcher mobility, which covers 1996–2020.

Human capital, international collaboration and mobility

  • The researcher population grew in all 20 cities with the highest counts in Beijing, Shanghai, London, and Boston. Shenzhen has the fastest researcher population growth. All Chinese cities in the study were among the top 10 cities in terms of researcher population growth, reflecting the result of China’s increasing efforts to cultivate, support and boost its pool of researcher talent.
  • Hong Kong, Singapore, and Stockholm are the top three cities with the highest share of internationally collaborative publications at 71.4%, 66.8%, and 66.2% respectively, well above the world average of 20.9%. Of the 20 cities, all have had increasing international collaboration over the past five years.
  • In terms of mobility, i.e. researchers moving between locations, during the period of 1996-2020, Seoul, Shenzhen, San Francisco, and Osaka have been attracting talent with the highest ‘‘inflow’’ as measured by the share of inflow researchers. In contrast, Tokyo, Paris, and Seoul have the highest share of ‘‘outflow’’ researchers. The traditional research hubs, such as San Francisco, Boston, London, and New York, as well as the emerging city of Shenzhen, had the highest FWCIs for their sedentary researcher group, indicating that these cities were able to retain high-impact talent.

Research Strengths

  • Beijing, Shanghai, London, Boston, and New York were the top producers of scholarly output among the comparators, while Shenzhen, Moscow, and Shanghai showed the fastest growth with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.5%, 11.3%, and 10.5%, respectively.
  • While most Asian cities lead in terms of scholarly output, their citation impact as measured by the normalized Field Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) indicator are lagging. San Francisco, Boston, Amsterdam, and Hong Kong are the top four cities with FWCIs of or over 2.0, an indication that their normalized citation impact is at least twice that the global average.
  • San Francisco, Boston, and Singapore are among the global top 1% of most cited publications based on the share of research output. However, within the same period, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Hong Kong have seen the fastest growth in research output among the top 1% of most cited publications with a CAGR of 29.3%, 15.0%, and 13.7 % respectively.

Knowledge transfer and innovation

  • Despite a lag in academic output, Tokyo has the most patent applications within the study period – 1.11 million patents applied – as well as having the largest number of Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) patent applications among the 20 cities. At 27.9%, Hong Kong has the highest growth of PCT patent applications while Seoul leads the integrated ranking score of all its highly innovative companies.
  • San Francisco, Osaka, and Boston are the top 3 cities with the largest share of publications written collaboratively between academia and industry at 11.3%, 9.4%, and 9.3% respectively. This is well above the world average of 2.7%. Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Beijing, on the other hand, have the highest growth rate of academic-corporate publications with a CAGR of 26.1%, 13.7%, and 11.2% respectively.

The full report provides further details on the data for and insights into the research and innovation landscape for the 20 global cities. We hope that the report will spur further discussion on how science and technology contribute to the innovativeness of cities, by focusing on their strengths and identifying areas of potential development.

Data source:

SciVal offers quick and easy access to the research performance of over 10,000 research institutions and 230 regions and countries. Using advanced data analytics technology, SciVal processes enormous amounts of data to generate powerful visualizations in seconds. The 170 trillion metrics in SciVal are calculated from 46 million publication records published in the 21,915 journals of 5,000 publishers worldwide. Website:

Scopus is Elsevier’s abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature, covering 79.8 million documents from more than 24,272 active journals, 59,700 book series, and 10.2 million conference proceeding publications by 5,000 publishers.

Scopus coverage is multilingual and global: approximately 46% of the titles in Scopus are published in languages other than English (or published in both English and another language). In addition, more than half of Scopus content originates from outside North America, representing many countries in Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region.

For this report, a static version of the Scopus database covering the period 2016-2020   inclusive was aggregated by city and region.

Patenting activity data used throughout this report are sourced from patent databases released by the China Intellectual Property Office, which include collections of patents from the China National Intellectual Property Office, the European Patent Office, Japan Patent Office, South Korean Intellectual Property Office, and the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

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