What sized cities are most appropriate to set up innovation centres?
There has been massive migration of rural population to urban centres. More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. What are its implications? One implication is that towns are becoming cities and cities are getting transformed into metropolis. As a city grows, its character changes in terms of its consumption pattern and population behaviour. As the city grows and attracts creative people, its potential for innovation increases, and new wealth and resources are created, and at the same time, crime, pollution, and disease increase. A city loses its identity when it becomes a megacity. As the city grows it optimises the delivery of the social services. This is due to the economies of scale in infrastructure and facilitates. The change in the character of the city is primarily driven by innovation and followed by wealth creation. The city is expected to grow continuously, and for that it needs an “accelerating treadmill of dynamical cycles of innovation”.
The time scales of innovation are city dependent, say some researchers. As the population increases it becomes more connected. As a result, the time scale of innovation in big cities becomes shorter. It has also been suggested that the pace of urban life in cities above a certain population increases as the size of the city increases. The growth and sustainability of the cities, however, are constrained by the availability and mobility of resources and their rates of consumption. The system collapses when it runs out of resources. Supply lines are choked and fail to meet the increasing rates of consumption. Innovation as well as knowledge creation and their application are viable means to avoid this crisis.
Innovation has the potential to bring major qualitative changes in the life of the populace as well as infrastructure. “As we approach the collapse, a major innovation takes place and we start all over again”, explain Geoffrey West and Luis Bettencourt of Santa Fe Institute. Big cities provide better opportunities to creative people for innovation and wealth creation. But the paradox is, as the size of the city increases, along with it increases the number of criminals, sick, job-seekers, and the amount of waste, etc. West and Bettencourt argue that up to 85 per cent of the character of a city is determined simply by its size. It means that only 15 per cent of a city’s character is distinctive. It means that if a city doubles in size, it needs only 85 per cent more infrastructure. It also means that crime and disease increase by 15 per cent above the doubling rate. This paradox prompts us to ask another important question: What sized cities are most appropriate to set up innovation centres?