Successful urban regions are based on a high quality of life offered to all citizens, which in turn attracts ‘knowledge workers’ in disproportionate numbers. Knowledge cities possess intellectual capital: They have above-average educated workforces and nurture their creativity in manifold ways through excellent education systems and efficient public administrations. Knowledge cities also value social capital: They systematically foster intensive cooperation between the public and private sectors, between universities, businesses and other civil society actors. The result is constant innovation, both societal and in institutions and businesses, with high investment rates in R&D, patents and the number of persons employed in modern sectors of the economy. This in turn leads to further improvements of social, cultural and economic life in the city.

A ‘knowledge city’ may therefore be defined as a city, which systematically encourages learning and knowledge creation, possesses an economy that is knowledge-driven, and provides an environment that fosters further knowledge creation and dissemination in a virtuous cycle. A knowledge city requires the participation of very diverse actors – from the individual citizen to independent think tanks freed from immediate profit concerns. A knowledge city instils a sense of collective ownership and shared identity precisely because it has an open information approach and allows public participation and public articulation of thought and criticisms.