Europe Made a Map to Show It Has Silicon Valleys, Too

It's all an attempt to settle once and for all which European city is the techiest.

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Apr 16 2014, 5:30pm
Image: Shutterstock/Anton Balzah

With the relentless ballyhooing of Silicon Valley, the tech world tends to focus largely on one specific part of one specific metro area of one specific continent.  But Europe is keen to attract digital attention to its own cities, as highlighted by recent efforts to play a larger role in international tech projects, such as the governance of the internet.​

You can probably guess some of the major European technological centres, but because everyone likes to quantify things, there’s now an official atlas of them. The Register unearthed a new report by the European Commission that maps out “European ICT Poles of Excellence,” and if nothing else, it settles any intra-European squabbles over who’s the geekiest.

In a blow to my own fine city, London and its much touted Silicon Roundabout (or “Tech City” as the UK government has doggedly tried to brand it) doesn’t take the top spot. It comes second in the report’s listings, lagging slightly behind Munich and just ahead of Paris. This map shows the tech hotspots, with places judged out of 100 points:

Image: European Commission Joint Research Centre

The points scale is all very complex, with points awarded for three different categories: research and development, innovation, and business. As you can tell by this chart, London is pretty barren on the innovation front, but excels at doing business (something you can tell just from looking at the corporate blocks around the apparent “creative” hub of Old Street).

Image: European Commission Joint Research Centre

Those categories are divided into 42 points that make up the survey of all the European poles, which end up being rather technical. Indeed, the whole point of the project, which has been going on for years, was to come up with a way of “defining, identifying, analysing and monitoring the existence and progress of current and future EIPE,” according to the EU project page.

Their results will then help influence policy aimed at pushing ICT in Europe, with one aim being to establish five new “ICT poles of world-class excellence” by 2020.

In an essay summarizing their findings, the researchers observe that excellence is scarce (though that’s by definition, one could argue), with only 34 out of 1,303 regions getting an “outstanding” ICT verdict. Of these, many were clustered in the same countries, with Germany and the UK in particular owning quite a few.

That said, the characteristics of the regions themselves were quite diverse in terms of size, population, policy and so on, but they’d all been built up over a long time, which makes the plan to create more ICT centres a little difficult. And when it comes down to it, international networking is still very important. This diagram of networked R&D centres shows that San Francisco is still very much queen:

Image: European Commission Joint Research Centre

It looks like collaboration rather than competition might be the way to go if Europe wants to push past its own borders and cement its place on the global high-tech playing field.