Savills: best cities attract Clean & ClimateTech companies

Cities that have a good funding ecosystem, a strong business environment, excellent universities and a certain ‘green buzz’ tend to attract CleanTech and ClimateTech companies, according to new research by Savills.

“Climate change, the world’s most pressing challenge, is driving huge investment into technologies that can help mitigate its effects,” said Paul Tostevin, director, Savills World Research. “The businesses behind CleanTech and ClimateTech, the two key ares of research and development, tend to congregate in certain cities, drawn in by tech-friendly conditions.”

Funding is the lifeblood of start-ups, and the availability of money, whether it comes from venture capitalists, government initiatives or co-operation between universities and the private sector, will attract companies.

However, funding is not the only criterion for a successful tech city. “A virtuous clustering of different factors is what really makes a centre shine,” according to Tostevin.

Boston, which tops the CleanTech and ClimateTech index, exemplifies the mix of attributes that makes a great tech city, as it has a strong business environment and ranks high for city buzz and wellness.

Boston also has a high number of top-class universities that help promote R&D and it offers a superlative talent pool, especially of software engineers. Boston is also home to Greentown Labs, the largest climate-tech start-up incubator in North America.

Another positive example is Cambridge in the UK, ranked 22nd in the index. “Underpinned by its world-class university, Cambridge is a model of the triple helix of corporate, government and educational benefits that creates a compelling proposition,” said Nicky Wightman, director of emerging trends, Savills.”Cambridge Cleantech, founded in 2011, is the UK’s leading clean-tech cluster, and the clean-tech sector in the Greater Cambridge region has a market value of £1.15 billion.”

Cambridge also illustrates the value of political and popular buy-in to climate initiatives. The city is famously cycle friendly and its Climate Change Strategy aims to make it net zero by 2030.

A similar dynamic propels the clean-tech and climate-tech sectors in the Nordics, with Helsinki ranking sixth and Oslo seventh in the index. These cities benefit from high levels of investment in renewable energy and are leaders in sustainability. Norway, for example, has the highest electric vehicle penetration rate of any country in the world.

These innovative tech sectors are changing city centres, too. In Nordic cities, a virtuous circle has emerged. Companies are attracted to them by the climate-friendly ecosystem. Their presence then reinforces that ecosystem, attracting like-minded people across a range of professions.

The city is more likely to turn to eco-conscious practitioners, for example, to enhance the built environment. Climate-friendly civic initiatives encourage pedestrianised areas and cycle-friendly transport systems, enhancing the quality of air – and life – for the city’s population as a whole. All of which makes the city still more attractive – not just to the CleanTech and ClimateTech companies, but to everyone.