London, Hamburg and Zurich the most promising European Cities of the Future 2023

Each year, fDi Intelligence, a subsidiary of the Financial Times group, publishes its global benchmark survey on high-potential business locations in Europe. This year, Hamburg holds the overall first position in the “European Cities and Regions of the Future 2023” ranking for larger cities. The overall winners in the two other categories, “Major cities” and “Mid-sized cities”, are London and Zurich. The fDi research team found that Europe has withstood a tumultuous year in geopolitics and economics, and that a boom in renewables has heralded the start of a mega-project era.

London, Hamburg and Zurich the most promising European Cities of the Future 2023

According to the survey, the most promising European cities in their categories are London, Hamburg and Zurich. While London has maintained its place as the most promising large city and Zurich once again assumed first place in the mid-sized cities category after a brief hiatus, all eyes are now on Hamburg as the surprise winner among large cities. 

Hamburg has been in the top 10 of the prestigious fDi ranking in various categories for many years, so this leap to the top wasn’t completely unexpected – and yet it is all the more encouraging. The managing director of Hamburg Marketing and Invest, Dr Rolf Strittmatter, sees the survey results as an affirmation of Hamburg’s continuous development as a location and a brand: “To consolidate its position as Northern Europe’s leading business location and to ensure a high standard of living, Hamburg continues to focus on innovation. This policy benefits not only residents and guests, but also companies, skilled personnel and investors. And this is also reflected in the solid progress made by many technology- and knowledge-based industries and business clusters that greatly benefit from one another. Hamburg’s central location in one of Europe’s strongest and most dynamic regions makes the city a hotspot for all sectors of development along the entire value chain.”

As the overall winner among large cities, Hamburg performed especially well in terms of Business Friendliness and Connectivity. It also topped the Human Capital and Lifestyle subcategories. What is more, the Hamburg Metropolitan Region was honoured in three categories for its connectivity and its economic potential.

Today, the renewables sector attracts more than one third of FDI in Europe. Hamburg’s strong position in this field and the benefits of a highly liveable city make the location ever more attractive to investors. Plus, its proximity to the North Sea has made Hamburg a logistics centre and a key player in the EU’s push to install 65 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.

Hamburg introduces itself as a strong emerging location for green hydrogen in the heart of Europe and presents solutions along the entire value chain for green hydrogen. A recent OECD study confirms that the Hamburg Metropolitan Region is particularly well suited for the development of a green hydrogen economy. The region offers unique locational advantages for the production of renewable energies and a high potential for the purchase of green hydrogen – especially from local industrial companies. The surrounding area of Northern Germany thus plays a key role in meeting the climate protection targets and accomplishing the energy transition in Germany. Numerous factors contribute to this: from the highest generation capacities for onshore and offshore wind power and underground formations for hydrogen storage to seaports with logistics and import terminals for green hydrogen and synthetic energy carriers – in addition to experienced maritime companies and research institutes with scientific expertise in the field of innovative energy carriers. Industrial companies with a very high hydrogen demand potential complete the value chain, positioning Northern Germany as an ideal European location with bright prospects for the future.

The European Cities and Regions of the Future 2023 ranking benchmarked the most promising investment destinations across Europe. The survey included as many as 370 European cities, which were divided into five groups based on their population size: major, large, mid-sized, small, and micro cities. The survey further comprised an assessment of 148 European regions, which were divided into three groups: large, mid-sized, and small regions. These were ranked by their performance across five subcategories: economic potential; business friendliness; connectivity; human capital and lifestyle; and cost effectiveness. For an additional category, the ‘FDI Strategy’ category, the European Cities and Regions of the Future 2023 ranking collected surveys from European investment promotion agencies. A judging panel made of four experts in investment promotion and economic development – Carolina Arriagada Peters, Sean Duggan, Judith O’Doherty and Firdaous Oussidhoum, alongside fDi editor Jacopo Dettoni and reporter Seth O’Farrell – reviewed 89 submissions from cities and regions across Europe. The FDI Strategy category is the only qualitative category in the otherwise data-driven ranking that feeds into the overall results.