Building the Innovation Economy: City-Level Strategies for Planning, Placemaking and Promotion

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The innovation economy is proving to be a huge disruptor and opportunity for cities, businesses and the real estate sector.

Cities around the world are seeking to accommodate the needs of a new generation of technology powered industries and firms, whose innovation model depends on proximity and whose talent pool explicitly prefer urban locations and lifestyles. Such cities are motivated to host a larger slice of this innovation economy in order to grow a new base of jobs, adjust to the process of industrial change, or to leverage technology for the big challenges of sustainability, resilience, and social cohesion. Many are trying to raise their innovation profile by focusing investment and promotion on new ‘innovation districts’, locations within their city where the innovation economy might cluster and concentrate.

Rotterdam is a city for whom the innovation economy is essential to the creation of additional jobs, to enhance its international visibility, and to encourage innovation in city management. Like many other cities around the world, Rotterdam is trying to raise its profile by focusing investment and promotion on new ‘innovation districts’, locations within the city where the innovation economy might develop and expand.

To explore its longer-term strategy to establish the city as a centre for innovation, it partnered with ULI to organise a one-day workshop that brought together an international group of practitioners with expertise working on urban innovation districts.
The workshop looked at issues such as:

• the ingredients of a long-term strategy for a city to build its innovation capacity,
• the roles of government and market factors,
• the links between innovation districts, placemaking and land use and
• how cities can build an innovation identity
and visibility.

This report further explores these topics inspired by the experience and examples of Munich, San Diego and Tel Aviv, as well as offering a number of recommendations to support Rotterdam’s strategy for its innovation ecosystem and its key districts. Munich is a city in a third cycle as a city of innovation, San Diego is into a second cycle, and Tel Aviv is enjoying a first full cycle. This allows different kinds of lessons to be learned from their experience.

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Case Studies

Munich   Rotterdam   San Diego   Tel Aviv