Home Will Europe beat the U.S. in smart city innovation?

Will Europe beat the U.S. in smart city innovation?

Though Europe is currently battered by a refugee crisis, economic laggards and Britain’s potential exit, some argue that its future smart cities will still be more innovative than those in the US.

In the global entrepreneurial landscape, the EU has a reputation as an overly bureaucratic, risk averse zone with poorer access to venture capital than America. But over at FastCompany, Boyd Cohen argues that the old continent is nonetheless poised to steal the innovation crown from a US that offers dimmer prospects in its entrepreneurial technology hubs.

“The EU is well positioned to not only compete but even potentially lead the democratized and urbanized entrepreneurial revolution in the decades to come,” said Cohen, who lists several key factors for the EU’s coming dominance.

“European cities tend to be way ahead of North American cities in the smart cities arena,” he said, with the EU pushing the smart cities agenda for about a decade. The US is comparatively late to the party, with President Obama beginning to push smart city initiatives only last year.

Cohen also sees the EU benefiting from better designed cities that are intrinsically more walkable and liveable. Liveability remains a key attractant for millennials, mobile professionals and the “creative class” of entrepreneurs, technologists and artists.

A 2016 Mercer quality of life survey revealing seven of the top ten global cities to be European. The highest rated US city was San Francisco, ranked 28th.

America may be scrappier..but is Europe more agile?

Next he sees greater European proliferation of soft infrastructure, such as maker spaces and co-working facilities than in the US. There are only 115 Fab Labs, or maker spaces, in the US, compared to 300 in Europe. As well, co-working locations have blossomed in Europe, with Barcelona boasting more than 300 compared to a paltry dozen in Philadelphia, though both have similar populations.

America has generally a higher tolerance of failure in its entrepreneurial communities. However, Cohen sees the rise of US inequality combined with its poorer safety social safety nets impeding US innovation prospects, as the real cost of failure to the individual is much higher stateside than in Europe.

America also lags Europe in removing barriers to entrepreneurial immigrants, where obtaining visas in the US keeps getting harder while in the EU it’s become easier than ever before.

And as more smart cities compete for the global pool of high quality entrepreneurs, technologists and investors, whichever metropolises can attract the best minds and talent will ultimately win the day.

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