Which City will Win the Title of The Most Innovative City of 2012?

By Melanie Appleby

Which global city do you think houses some of the most innovative people? Citibank has collaborated with the Urban Land Institute or ULI and the Wall Street Journal in hosting an Internet poll asking readers to vote on the most innovative city.

Initial contestants included 25 of the world’s most forward-thinking and creative metropolises—London, England; Copenhagen, Denmark; Berlin, Germany; Chicago, USA; Singapore; Hong Kong, China; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Toronto, Canada; Vienna, Austria; Vancouver, Canada; and Seattle, USA, among others.

The ULI cited the criteria for being entered into the contest as the following, “the scale and scope of avenues they have pursued since 2008 exhibit a sustained and growing commitment to development. These new avenues, whether in structure, scope or timing, reflect remarkable, forward-thinking decisions on the part of municipal leadership.”

Thus far in the competition, only three cities remain standing—Tel Aviv, Israel; New York, USA; and Medellin, Colombia. Anyone can vote online once a day until Dec.31, 2012 and the winner will be 100 percent publically chosen. The winning city will be announced on Jan. 24, 2013 and appear in the February 2013 issue of WSJ Magazine.

Medellin, Tel Aviv and New York City have expressed a devotion to long-term economic and social problem solving. Twenty years ago, Medellin would not have even made the initial list of 200 cities. However, efforts to increase security and education while decreasing crime have pushed this city in a positive direction and onto the global stage, according to PorColombia. The ULI’s reason for including this city in the competition was due to “progress and potential.”

Medellin: Making Process in Transportation and Sustainability

Medellin has experienced some notable improvements in transportation, sustainability, and the war on crime. The Metro de Medellin was a 10-year, publicly and privately funded project that finished in 2006. The World Watch Institute stated that the Metro has become the core of transportation in the city, transporting over 553,000 passengers a day. Not only is the city more accessible, it is also cleaner. The Metro is said to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 175,000 tons a year, and therefore, reduce health costs by $1.5 billion and traffic and congestion costs by $4 billion annually. The poorest areas of the city, called favelas, can now have reliable access to education, jobs, commerce, health care, cultural destinations and other basic needs.

Nvate Most Innovative City of 2012 Citibank Urban Land Institute Wall Street Journal

Medellin, Colombia

Similarly, an escalator extending 1,300 feet up a steep mountainside was built to connect the favelas—which are on the outskirts of the city—to the city center—which is down below—in a safe manner. This escalator allows 12,000 residents to travel in what used to be a 30-story, dangerous climb in a safe, five-minute ride. Medellin has turned a complete 180 degrees from the Pablo Escobar run-town it used to be 20 years ago.

Tel Aviv: Hosting Innovation Events and Building an Innovation Center

Nvate Most Innovative City of 2012 Citibank Urban Land Institute Wall Street Journal

Tel Aviv, Israel Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Having the advantage of being in a first-world country, Tel Aviv was included in the competition because of its “technology and research,” according to the ULI. Tel Aviv is known to be an active supporter of improving its image and reputation, as pointed out by Haaretz, with the municipality constantly entering the city into competitions to garner better public relations. Overall, the people of Tel Aviv are very involved with and concerned about innovative processes, demonstrated by various investments and events. They are hosting an event that is reminiscent of the World Fair, called “Innovation Month,” where hundreds of speakers and entrepreneurs from around the world talk about innovation in the 21st century. Part of its reason for being forward-thinking stems from the fact that Tel Aviv is rich in culture, youth, and history. It is commonly voted one of the best in a myriad of categories—places to live, places to visit, most creative, and so on. ULI mentions other reasons that indicate Tel Aviv’s devotion to innovation—the construction of a light rail system, the approval of plans to create a multi-billion dollar innovation center, and the UNESCO-honored White City, which is a collection of buildings that were built in the 1930s and designed by German, Jewish architects who fled Germany after the rise of the Nazis.

New York City: Increasing Sustainability Practices

Nvate Most Innovative City of 2012 Citibank Urban Land Institute Wall Street Journal

New York City, USA Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Lastly, this competition would not be complete without a city that harnesses innovation as a result of it being a “place of power,” as determined by the ULI. As the financial and business capital of the Western world, New York City houses some of the smartest and motivated people. Efforts to increase sustainability are crucial in a city that operates 24/7 with a metropolitan population of over 20 million. There is a long-term plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by municipal facilities and operations to 70 percent of 2006 levels by 2017. Hybrid cars account for 25 percent of the yellow cabs, a number that will only go up in the future. Water consumption rates are at a 50-year low due to laws and mandates put into effect by the city’s municipality. Among other efforts mentioned by the ULI are tree-planting initiatives, the construction of “green” public schools, and the development of a solar map used to evaluate solar power potential. In such a diverse and populous city, innovation is bound to find its way into the city’s core competencies.

Make sure to have your opinion count and vote for the city you think deserves the title of Most Innovative City of 2012.

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