Each year, IESE Business School’s Center for Globalization and Strategy prepares a list of smart cities. Even this year, the smart city rankings have been released in the name IESE Cities in Motion Index 2020.

This is the seventh edition and is as always co-authored by professors Pascual Berrone and Joan Enric Ricart. The annual index analyses the progress and development in 174 cities worldwide across nine dimensions. These dimensions are regarded as key attributes to the creation of truly smart and sustainable cities.

For three consecutive years, we have been bringing to our readers the top 10 smart cities ranked by IESE. But this year, along with the ‘Top 10’ we are also discovering smart cities that rank first in specific dimensions.

Before discovering the latest rankings, the Top 10 of 2019 can give you a better insight.

The 9 Dimensions & Their Leaders

Human Capital

As per the IESE Cities in Motion Index 2020, human capital should be a city’s main goal. The level of education, access to culture and recreation are vital components to measure human capital.

Social Cohesion 

Many cities mainly focus on their technological advances. But social cohesion, often ignored, is crucial for comprehensive development. It defines the level of coexistence between groups of people in the same city with different income, culture, age and profession. 


Strategic industrial plans, cluster generation, industrial plans, and entrepreneurial initiatives are an important part of the dimension. In addition, labour productivity enables measuring strength, efficiency and technological level of the production system. 


This dimension describes the effectiveness, quality and sound guidance of state intervention. Good governance comes with factors such as public participation and the authorities’ ability to involve business leaders and local stakeholders. 

The Environment

Sustainable development of a city can be defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Green buildings, renewable energy, efficient water and waste management, and plans to counter the effects of climate change are essential. They will determine the long-term sustainability in smart cities. 

Mobility & Transportation

Road and route infrastructure, public transportation, air transportation impact quality of life. They are vital to the sustainability of a city over time. And so is micro mobility with new variables like bike rental services. 

Urban Planning

This dimension is the driving force behind development and poverty reduction. Citizens, civil society organisations, the public and private sectors, multilateral organisations and academia – all are important players. Urban planning should focus on developing compact, well-connected cities with accessible public services and green spaces.

International Projection

This involves the city’s reputation in the world and maintaining its global outreach. This requires improving city brand through strategic tourism plans, the attraction of foreign investment and representation abroad.


ICT is the backbone of any society that wants to achieve the ‘smart’ status. Technology reach in a city is measured by variables like social media, mobile network, online banking among others. 

Top 10 Smart Cities In 2020

IESE’s Top 10 Smart City Rankings of 2020

Rank 1: London 

This is the second year when London proved to be the smartest of all. It performs well in all  dimensions except social cohesion. The city is home to start-ups and programmers more than any other city in the world. It’s ‘Smarter London Together’ initiative is working to make the city smartest in the world. Its flexible digital master plan roadmap aims at collaborating all the municipalities and services of the capital. Design, data exchange, connectivity, skills and collaborations are its five missions. 

Rank 2: New York 

New York is in second place since last year. And one its greatest reasons is its bad performance in the social cohesion dimension. However, it holds better rankings than London in many dimensions. The city is committed to a large number of initiatives like ‘The One NYC 2050’ and zero waste by 2030. 

Rank 3: Paris

Paris, The City of Light, has maintained the third spot for the second year. Its identity is strongly being driven by open innovation. It enables citizens to have access to and control the city’s data flow. IoT is working at the forefront to optimise the flow of people and vehicles in the city. Paris Smart City 2050 architectural project is aiming to construct buildings that stand as climate change fighters.

Rank 4: Tokyo

Top Smart City With Leadership In Social Cohesion And Data Integration

Tokyo stands fourth in the world. But in the Asia Pacific region, it proves to be the leader. It performs well in the economy at third position, in the environment at sixth position and human capital at ninth. Tokyo tends to focus on social cohesion addressing social issues like the ageing population of the country. Society 5.0 initiative is working towards the aim to develop a data-driven, human-centred, next-generation society. This will ensure that people regardless of their age or place will receive benefits of innovation and technological advances. 

Rank 5: Reykjavik

The most populous city in Iceland, Reykjavik has maintained the fifth position since 2019. Over a decade ago, the city implemented a government-to-people interaction system. Today, this is allowing citizens to be true participants in better changes in the city. Moreover, the northernmost city on the planet runs on 100% renewable geothermal and hydroelectric energy. It is a leader in energy sustainability, smart solutions and efficient transportation systems.  

Rank 6: Copenhagen 

In the global ranking, Copenhagen is in sixth place. But in the Top 5 of Western Europe, it stands on the fourth position. In the environment dimension, it is performing well in second place. Thanks to the city’s low levels of pollution and contamination. At number seven, it does well in governance. However, it shows most room for improvement in urban planning with 81st ranking. 

Rank 7: Berlin  

This is the only German city to be ranked in global Top 10 at seventh position. However, in Western Europe Top 5, it comes in fifth place. Berlin’s best performance is seen in mobility and transportation in fourth place. For human capital and international projection, it holds fifth and ninth place respectively. Yet, it needs to improve in the economy (59) and the environment (42) dimension.  

Rank 8: Amsterdam 

Amsterdam has a rather very unstable global ranking history. In 2018 it was the tenth in the list. In 2019, it jumped to third place. And this year, it slipped to the eighth position. The city received the best score in international projection at number five. Thanks to its strong reputation as an attractive tourist destination. In mobility and transportation, it is at number 11. Its weakest dimension proved to be social cohesion at 50. 

Rank 9: Singapore

The city-state of Singapore is constantly showcasing leadership in the technology sector. A record low level of crime in the city is because of tech advances like robot police and remote surveillance systems. It is the world’s first to launch a system of driverless taxis and is planning to launch a similar bus fleet by 2022. So, this clearly speaks of its second place in technology dimensions. In addition, it is third in international projection and seventh in the environment. Its weakest performance is in mobility and transportation with the position at number 55. 

Rank 10: Hong Kong

One of the most influential cities in Southeast Asia is also the leader in technology. Thanks to its projects like Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint that aims at making it a world-class smart city. The city is seeking to use innovation and technology to address challenges in city management and quality of life. With an attractive business atmosphere, it scores fourth place in international projection.

In the end, we conclude with the statement of Joan Enric Ricart. “The current health crisis serves as a reminder that cities have a duty to people and, therefore, to human development. This crisis will change people’s real needs; consequently, cities will have to change their urban policies and strategies.”


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