While the term is often tossed around lightly, the concept of innovation has exceedingly proven to be a driver of economic growth and social impact, often transforming a city and its demographics. JLL’s City Momentum Index (CMI), tracks the speed of change of a city’s economy and commercial real estate market, identifying those cities which have the most dynamic urban economies and are adapting most rapidly to the imperatives of technological and infrastructural transformation.

Those ranking in the top 20 are almost exclusively innovation-driven cities, where mixed-use developments and adaptive reuse projects are designed to be conduits for creative collaborations, coworking and real-life protoyping, bringing talent from different disciplines together in close proximity to facilitate the proverbial spark that leads to innovation. Meanwhile, socioeconomic momentum is measured by the recent percentage changes in city GDP, population, air passengers and corporate headquarter presence, projected percentage changes in GDP and population, and recent levels of foreign direct investment.

“London, New York, San Francisco and Boston, are home to the world’s most dynamic mixed-used districts that are thriving through their ability to incubate and commercialise new ideas. These compact and well-connected city districts, often centred on a range of higher education and research institutions, promote connectivity, co-production and open innovation,” reads the latest edition of JLL’s CMI, noting that infrastructural and real estate projects in the four global cities provide the “infrastructure and environment that facilitates creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, while also fostering a sense of community and well-being for its citizens in a sustainable urban model.”

While many of the front runners are unsurprising to many – Silicon Valley, Sydney, Shanghai and Dublin join the four cities previously mentioned to make for a 8 ‘usual suspects’ in the top 10 – Nairobi and Bangalore round out the upper end of the league. With 40% of the India’s technology industry concentrated in Bangalore, and plenty of universities and research institutes, the city is quickly outpacing its emerging counterparts. This is underlined with infrastructural projects such as a metro expansion and ‘industrial corridors’, priming the city for a bright, vibrant future. Meanwhile, Nairobi has been positioning itself as tech capital of Africa, while its rapid demographic and economic development is pushing real estate development. The devolution of centralized power to a governor position in the capital in 2013 has also given Nairobi the freedom to develop and execute plans based on the city’s specific needs, aiding development and laying the foundations for innovation.

city innovation momentum