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5 things city officials and developers need to know about economic growth through innovation - 2019

The following takeaways are explored in depth in Aretian's new Atlas of Innovation Districts and accompanying report. You can access the interactive Atlas and download the full report at

Aretian | Urban Analytics & Design is a startup at the Harvard Innovation Lab, using complexity science and advanced data analytics to build digital twin models of cities to improve urban planning and development. The Aretian team just released the first-of-its-kind interactive Atlas of Innovation Districts and accompanying report, which explore the secret recipe for sustainable economic growth through innovation ecosystems.

Here are the top 5 things city officials and developers need to know about economic growth through innovation:

1) Innovation ecosystems produce benefits for the broader community, including for people not actively involved in innovative jobs. Innovation Districts activate the dormant capabilities of a community and generate exponential benefits for surrounding neighborhoods and regions. Compared to non-innovation neighborhoods, Innovation Districts produce on average a 4x higher intensity of tangible innovations per employee, as well as a 9x higher density of job opportunities, a 15x higher concentration of knowledge-intensive jobs, and 20x more wealth or economic activity per resident. Areas with an Innovation Intensity (an Aretian metric explained in the full report) of 30% and above have a remarkably low unemployment rate of 2-4%. Crucially, for every innovation-focused job the district creates, it generates 4 to 5 additional support jobs.

2) Successful innovation spaces depend on thoughtful urban planning and organizational design. Urban design will influence the future of work, our social connectivity, and the economic potential of our societies. The Atlas of Innovation District explores the optimal density and neighborhood morphology associated with the highest performing innovation districts -- and reveals that the urban environment really does matter. Additionally, the most successful Innovation Districts create intentional organizational support structures to promote innovation, helping to support researchers and entrepreneurs explore ideas and launch companies. The goal of carefully-planned innovation ecosystems is to create virtuous cycles of innovation that attract more talented people to the area.

Aretian - Geospatial Analysis of Innovation Atlas of Innovation Districts Urban AI Aretian Harvard City Science Urban Design Paris Ramon Gras Alomà Jeremy Burke Fernando Yu Urban Innovation Network Theory Harvard SEAS Harvard GSD Aretian Urban Analytics and Design Boston Cambridge Sandy Pentland La Sorbonne 15-Minute City Fifteen minute city Carlos Moreno Barcelona Sandy Pentland MIT Tech Review Geospatial Analysis Innovation
Geospatial analysis is a key component of Aretian's analytical methods

3) If you don't have an in-depth understanding of your innovation ecosystem, you might just need to reframe your perspective. Aretian's goal through the Atlas of Innovation Districts project is to build high-resolution models of economic and urban systems for improved scenario testing, system optimization, and urban planning. We understand that most cities are limited by a lack of high-resolution understanding of the urban and economic systems they seek to develop. Our analytics engine provides perspectives at various scales - the regional scale, district scale, and human scale - to diagnose and optimize systems in a way that was not previously possible. Ultimately, these methods reveal a more complete picture of the human dynamics beneath complex societal problems.

4) Your community doesn't need to be a tech leader to tap into the benefits of innovation. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Our research shows that some of the most effective innovation strategies build on the legacy of an industrial past that has become outdated. Traditional capabilities and local knowledge can propel a city toward innovation and into a stable position of competitive advantage. The Atlas of Innovation District shows how cities like Pittsburgh, Detroit, and St Louis are using industrial legacies to kickstart new innovation economies.

5) The factors that promote innovation are discrete, analyzable, and in your control. Cities have two options regarding innovation; they can leave it to take place organically in a diffused, unsupported environment, or they can concentrate the resources that support innovation in a chosen area and accelerate it. Innovation is in reach, and as a result, so is distributed economic prosperity.

Please visit for more details about Aretian's work and to access the Atlas of Innovation Districts and accompanying report. The Aretian team can be reached at Happy innovating!

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