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Top 20 smartest cities in North America and Europe

Posting in Cities

Boston and Copenhagen top the list this year as cities with the smartest people, economies, and leadership.

That's the word from Boyd Cohen, who just published his lists of the 10 "smartest cities" in North America, and 10 smartest cities in Europe in Fast Company Co.Exist.

What makes a city "smart"?  It isn't just the education levels of the populace, though that is one of the key variables Cohen uses to create his rankings. A city's "smarts" also comes about due to a combination of initiatives, including high-tech infrastructure, economic strength, entrepreneurial culture, quality of life, and sustainability plans.

Of course, with all this smartness comes a price. Many of the cities Cohen listed also have the highest costs of living in the world. There are some who would say living with high costs is not so "smart" -- hence the rising appeal of many midwestern U.S. cities, or so-called second-tier cities (such as Richmond, Virginia or Darmstadt, Germany) in which business and life can be conducted on a much more cost-effective basis.

Nevertheless, here are the top cities for which many other favorable smartness factors have come together:

North America's top 10 smartest cities:

  1. Boston. World-class entrepreneurial ecosystem, bolstered by top universities.
  2. San Francisco. High quality of life, civic-mindedness, and world's leading technology environment.
  3. Seattle. Smart governance, e-governance, high economic performance.
  4. Vancouver. Highest quality of life in North America, and a very green city.
  5. New York City. Visionary leadership, smart governance, highly walkable and accessible.
  6. Washington, D.C.  E-governance, and a pioneer in the adoption of new technology/
  7. Toronto. High quality of life, highly educated population.
  8. Chicago. Green initiatives, commitment to open data and digital access.
  9. Los Angeles. A budding technology entrepreneurial ecosystem, including "dozens of technology accelerators and incubators."
  10. Montreal. High quality of life, highly accessible.

Europe's top 10 smartest cities:

  1. Copenhagen. Greenest city on the planet; highly educated population.
  2. Stockholm. Green city, strong economy.
  3. Amsterdam. Highly accessible, highly education population.
  4. Vienna. Smart mobility, smart governance, e-governance.
  5. Paris. "The second-best city in Europe for startups."
  6. Berlin. “Berlin has low rental prices, low housing costs, lower salaries, a high-quality labor force, great engineers, and it’s a fun and creative place.”
  7. London. "Rated the number one startup capital in all of Europe... the conditions for entrepreneurs are similar to those found in U.S. startup hubs like the Silicon Valley or NYC.”
  8. Barcelona. Visionary leadership, e-governance.
  9. Munich. High quality of life, home of many corporate headquarters.
  10. Frankfurt. High quality of life, green initiatives.

(Photo: Joe McKendrick.)

— By on January 10, 2013, 1:53 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure