Urban Competitiveness and the 6T approach

By Luis Falcón - Silvia Banchini, March 3, 2015

Since the ‘90s the emergence of information and knowledge as the basis of production, productivity and competitiveness has led to a “new economy of competitiveness” (Porter 2004; Castells, 2000), where the relation between global and local dimensions have been reshaped and two main factors seem to emerge into the debate on a new competitive paradigm: the urban factor and the human factor.

The search for territorial competitiveness (either urban and/or regional) and the ability of a local environment to be attractive becomes the main argument of contemporary policies for economic growth. The control of movements, connections and time spent in a local environment by mobile agents of the knowledge-based economy (KBE), acquires a central role in new urban policies. (OECD 2006.2008; EU Lisbon Agenda, 2009; Center for International Competitiveness, 2008; The World Capital Institute, 2007; Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum, 2008; International Journals of Urban and Regional Research, 2007, 2009).

If the battleground of international competitiveness in the 21st century is innovation, and cities are increasingly viewed as the cauldrons of innovation, enriching not only their surrounding regions but their nations as a whole, for cities to flourish and enjoy a sustainable future in this high velocity, knowledge intensive, networked economy, they must continually re-invent themselves.

In our point of view, the main factors of strategic leadership for innovative urban environments are:

  • Territory
  • Tourism
  • Time
  • Technology
  • Talent
  • Tolerance

This approach pretends to assume the three Ts determined by Richard Florida (acclaimed urban studies theorist) in his thesis about creative cities, and adds three more: Territory, Tourism and Time.


Territory is the main factor of competitiveness. Innovation and productive processes are now more than ever strongly dependent on geographical situation. In this age of sustainability and optimization of resources, the model organization of territory occupation is a key subject in the design of urban strategies. Since 2007 half of the world population is concentrated in urban environments, and in 2050 this percentage will increase up to 75 %¹. In the future, the top urban environments will be of high population density and an optimized public transport network.

There are three factors that play an important role in the location decision making process of companies:

(1) air connections to other cities; (2) quality of life for the working people; and (3) the absence of contamination.

Alfonso Vegara, Architect, Urban planner, Economist, Sociologist, and President of Metropoli Foundation, states that intelligent cities usually assume that negative environmental impacts have to be avoided. inAtlas goes further to add that truly intelligent territories assume a more ambitious role of positive intervention in the environment that includes active environmental protection, renewal initiatives of natural ecosystems and, especially, the rehabilitation of degraded urban areas (physical, social and economically).

source: World Urbanization Prospects – United Nations


Tourism, or in its local code, leisure, in its contemporary conception, will be one of the main keys in the development of creative territories. We are not presenting tourism as an end regarding the economic sector, but rather as a means for the construction of quality services (hotels, restaurants, ambience places), for the promotion of the recovery of historical and contemporary urban and coastal destinations, and as one of the principal promoters of construction of tolerant ambiences and attitudes.

Urban tourism should grow as much as their environments grow. In an age in which the industry has moved away from population centres, tourism has turned into a public tool for the restructuring of the urban environments.


Time is ‘intangible gold’ in the contemporary society, from efficiency in its business management to freedom to organize our free time. To possess it, to enjoy it or to exchange it has become a challenge of quality of life for innovative societies. If there is an urban factor that defines efficiency and quality of life of the urban and coastal environment is the management of time.

The average time of necessary journeys of people determines their degree of social cohesion and class integration. In the age of the efficient management of resources, the public urban transport is becoming a sustainability target. The rejection of the use of the car, the promotion of the bicycle or shared cars, and the proliferation of interchangers of mobility are important to developing friendly environments.

The management of time in the working day, the compatibility with the personal life and the possibility of adapting urban services to the new schedules far from the industrial systematization have turned the time factor into an urban excellence indicator.


Since the industrial period Technology has been and still is the key factor in the development of the productive efficiency for the economic growth. Understood as material culture, it is a fundamental dimension of social structure and social change (Fischer, 1992:1-32). Technology is usually defined as the use of scientific knowledge to set procedure for performance in a reproducible manner. The capacity to process enormous amounts of information and communication that is being made possible by BIG DATA technologies, and developments in microelectronics, represents an ideal solution of modern societies.


The accumulation of human capital has been directly related to the level education, the increase in technological knowledge and the capacity to easily adopt and implement innovations. It has been argued that the most educated individuals would be the most innovative, but the revision of art over human capital (creativity and talent) has reinforced a more contemporary point of view, reuniting the consensus within the European context, especially within the field of politics that connects talent to the idea of competition, skill, attitude and qualification. At the basis of this conclusion is the term “talent,” reuniting the following characteristics: access to high levels of creativity (theory); to understanding (technical ability); and to an elevated propensity for adaptation (implementation) (Salvat, Marcet, 2008; Jericó, 2000).

The human factor resides in the aptitude but also in the attitude. The industrial society based on physical production is becoming a new creative society based on the extra cost of ideas.


Tolerance is a key factor for environments and developments to stimulate technological growth and attract talent. Tolerance is important to attract talent because it generates a climate of sociability, a favorable atmosphere for the exchange. Tolerance can be found in multitude of tangible and intangible perceptions, as the absence of prejudices, the presence of intercultural relations, the freedom to develop the selected religion, the social inclusion and the integration of the immigrant.

A tolerant urbanization is very attractive and this is an intangible value that not only attracts talent but increases the social cohesion and the self-esteem of its inhabitants.


The network structure of productive centers, pointed by E. Soja, become an obligation for the sustainability of cities in all the aspects. The creative metropolis must be dense, but not because of it, compact and continuous. The governance, the progress of the network of metropolitan infrastructures and the reduction of time for necessary journey, the value of landscape, the optimization of the use of resources, the bet for advanced tertiary industrial sector of low land consumption, tourism as creative sector, the social cohesion, the atraction of the “visitors” of knowledge age and the constant reinforcement of the intangible value of the city, are the specific lines to turn into a competitive innovatine metropolis.



Share Article