After Europe and the Americas, come with us to discover the 8 most innovative cities in Asia and Oceania.
Tokyo [Smart Cities]: The Japanese capital is a hotbed for digital innovation and smart city trials. A true smart city lab, Tokyo stands out from the other Asian markets thanks to its technological innovation. A pioneering city in the field of smart grids, it’s been quick to develop solutions to respond to energy constraints. In 2013, the city set up a smart grid lab for citizens and businesses to work together on issues linked to energy and transport. Its work includes studying new ways of managing electricity and looking into battery changing stations for electric taxis. The world of smart mobility is booming in the Japanese capital. Its taxis are the perfect illustration of Japan’s global leadership in terms of R&D and industrialization on the self-driving, electric and connected vehicle markets. Big Data is right at the heart of the sector. That’s why, in 2013, the city’s 13 transport companies launched an Open Data initiative in association with IT-based R&D labs, and since then have publicly shared traffic data collected using specialised equipment. Their aim is to boost the creation of startups and new services. However, to become a real smart city, there’s still progress to be made in terms of the environment, social cohesion and governance. A number of initiatives are expected in the coming years, such as the Tokyo 2020 plan, which aims to reduce water consumption, promote biodiversity and ensure that renewable energy makes up at least 20% of the city’s energy mix. More than an innovation hub, Tokyo is a real smart city lab.
Seoul [Technology]: The capital of the world’s most connected country is experiencing phenomenal success. Ranked 3rd in the world in terms of patents filed, Seoul has positioned itself as the high-tech market leader, and is home to chaebols (South Korean family-controlled business conglomerates) such as Samsung, SK Telecom and LG. For the last 3 years, South Korea has also been ranked 3rd worldwide for IT use. For example, over 85% of Koreans have a mobile phone and contract, 70% have an internet connection, and over 40% of these have access to super-fast fibre-optic broadband. These figures mean that Korea takes the top spot as the world’s most connected country. Such a high level of connectivity boosts innovation, helps to make the city smarter, and encourages startups to develop and foreign businesses to move to the city.
Taipei [Global Tech Hubs]: The capital of Taiwan has what it takes to give the biggest Asian markets a run for their money. The small island and its capital are currently experiencing a boom in innovative initiatives, thanks in particular to their startup ecosystem. Essentially, thanks to the new president, Tsai Ing-Wen, startups have become a national priority, and the country has reportedly already developed over a hundred incubators. With its big focus on entrepreneurship (98% of Taiwanese companies are SMEs), Taipei is known for its flourishing startup ecosystem. For example, Garage+, one of the city’s most fashionable incubators, is the perfect showcase for the creative and entrepreneurial frenzy that’s currently hitting the city.
Hong Kong [Urban Transformation & Global Tech Hubs]: Nicknamed the Fragrant Harbour, Hong Kong is the world’s most liberal economic area. It’s home to 71 of the 100 biggest global banks, and stands out from other Asian cities for being the first point of entry for major Western groups intending to establish a foothold on the continent. The city also hosts a startup ecosystem with a huge amount of potential, especially in the fields of FinTech, retail, e-commerce, the IoT and data mining – enough to make the biggest European innovation hubs like London and Amsterdam quake in their boots. A number of foreign entrepreneurs have also decided to set up in the city, attracted by its strategic position in Asia, its limited domestic market, which encourages startups’ international development, its range of infrastructure and its internationally renowned incubators and investors, which promote entrepreneurial development.
Singapore [Sustainable Development]: The city-state of Singapore has undergone a major transformation in the last 50 years, and has risen to join the ranks of the most powerful countries in the world. It hasn’t been easy given its climate and the fact that it’s formed of a number of islands. But thanks to the government’s work, Singapore has been able to establish itself as one of the most innovative and sustainable cities. It’s launched a number of initiatives designed to optimize energy use, manage waste and water management and improve urban transport. Singapore is also outstanding when it comes to state-of-the-art technology. For example, everyone’s heard about or seen pictures of the Gardens by the Bay park and its futuristic artificial trees. As well as being visually appealing, especially at night, they also have a practical side, providing energy to the surrounding area through photovoltaic panels. The city has also developed a revolutionary sanitation system for public spaces, meaning that Singapore is one of the world’s cleanest areas. Often called ‘a City in a Garden’, Singapore is truly living up to its nickname. The ideal location for digital entrepreneurs, the city-state has also attracted a number of high-tech groups such as Apple, IBM and Facebook. With its highly sought-after incubators and investors, including the Silicon Straits and Innov8, Singapore is home to world-class startups such as Bubble Motion, Zalora and DropMySite. But what’s the secret to being at the cutting edge of innovation and creating a sustainable environment? Educating citizens at the earliest possible stage. The city doesn’t want to dictate its citizens’ behaviour, but rather to influence them and get them involved as quickly as possible in solving issues linked to ethics, sustainability and innovation.
Sydney [Smart Cities]: Famous for its opera house, its beaches and its idyllic way of life, Australia’s most populous city is also a place where the word ‘connected’ has real meaning. As well as offering fantastic quality of life to its residents, Sydney also benefits from excellent connectivity, making it an attractive hub for international innovation. In early September, the Communications Minister launched a LoRaWAN to make Sydney the ultimate connected city. The city now runs a long-range IoT network on the 915 MHz spectrum band. It’s an important step forward for Sydney – in the long term, it will allow the city to provide connected services and improve its infrastructure. The IoT industry is set to have a major impact on the country, and that’s why policy-makers are looking to develop it. Even more fascinating is the fact that the city has launched a large-scale new initiative to become the model Smart City: the Sustainable Sydney 2030 project. The aim of this huge project is to get the public and private sectors to work together with citizens to rethink the city’s vision and to make it 100% green and 100% connected by 2030.
Auckland: Educational innovation – that’s what makes the biggest city in New Zealand so appealing. The city is investing heavily to create a powerful tech ecosystem. It means that Auckland attracts large numbers of international students every year and boosts its visibility thanks to its innovation policy. The government has set up a new network, Network 4 Learning, designed to give as many schools as possible a high-quality internet connection. Through this network, the government has also promoted the creation of a portal to put all education stakeholders in touch with each other, encouraging the sharing of resources and making it easier to organize lessons. At the Point England School, technology is being used to transform the lives of children in a priority education area. All staff and students have fully mastered ICT skills, and the whole school makes heavy use of online technology. The aim of this initiative is to ensure fairness between the different communities of New Zealand and to make the children into stakeholders in innovation and education. Teacher training has also been completely redesigned, with new ‘learning lab’-based programmes being developed to help train teachers in disciplines such as new technology and digital tools. Both the city of Auckland and, to a certain extent, New Zealand as a whole have managed to put human beings back at the heart of all of these innovative measures – and the government has understood that it is citizens who will bring about innovation.
Bangalore: Aptly known as India’s Silicon Valley, this city in south-east India has focused its development on state-of-the-art technology. As well as being the jewel in the crown of Indian tech with Infosys and Wipro, a number of major international groups such as Microsoft, Google and IBM have set up subsidiaries in the city. The 4th-biggest tech centre in the world, 35% of the country’s IT sector employees work in Bangalore, and the city exports over 36% of Indian software. With a dynamic startup ecosystem and over 700 R&D centres, the city is seen as the perfect place for setting up a business in India. It also hosts a large number of incubators and accelerators such as Microsoft’s renowned Azure Accelerator, as well as AngelPrime and Kyron. Located at the forefront of innovation and new technology, Bangalore is home to unicorns including Flipkart ($15 billion), Snapdeal ($6.5 billion) and Olacabs ($5 billion). As the digital epicentre of South Asia, Bangalore-based startups are 24% more likely to be monetized than startups from Silicon Valley.