How Philadelphia Can
Maintain Its Status as a
“New World City”

Philadelphia was recently ranked as a new world city for innovation. Here’s how it can continue that momentum and break into the next level of international recognition.

In 2019, Philadelphia entered the global stage as one of the few U.S. metropolitan areas identified as a “New World City” in the Demand and Disruption in Global Cities report. In terms of “second-tier” cities, Philadelphia consistently dominates for its ability to attract international investors and young talent.

To expand on Philadelphia’s key differentiators and areas for growth, JLL’s Chief Research Officer for the Americas, Ben Breslau, presented research findings at The Chamber of Commerce of Greater  Philadelphia’s Innovation Talks: Recharging Global Cities virtual event. 

Breslau provided insight by comparing Philadelphia’s outlying strengths to other global cities ranked in the report, marking key differentiators that will continue to propel the city forward. A key part of the presentation included an outline of three ways Philadelphia can further position itself for growth and expand its global presence in the coming years. 

1. Increase awareness through branding.

Traditionally, GDP and size were the main parameters for ranking cities’ stature around the world. Now, successful cities are defined by a dynamic mix of talent, innovation, diversity and inclusivity – all areas where Philadelphia excels, yielding a high global rank. 

City competitiveness has shifted once again in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing on health and safety as well as innovation in the life sciences sector. Philadelphia is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this strength as a hub for ‘eds and meds’ and its place as a home for companies focused on advancements in cell and gene therapy. To continue its momentum, the city needs to brand itself as a destination for medical innovation, safety and livability.

Our research shows that over the last two years, $805 million in venture capital was invested in local cell and gene therapy companies—which is 2.6 times larger than the previous four years of funding. 

Considering Philadelphia’s strength in the cell and gene therapy industry, the city is positioned for long-term success with the opportunity to take part in researching and manufacturing a vaccine for COVID-19 and the treatment and prevention of other global health crises.

To enhance its global image as a health innovator, Philadelphia must lean into and bolster its relationships with health organizations, hospitals and research centers located within and outside of the region. Commercial real estate developers have the opportunity to build space for these companies and continue growing areas like University City and the Navy Yard into global health and research destinations. 

2. Consider Philadelphia’s capability for an urban transformation.

With a renewed focus on health and safety and social distancing, companies are reassessing the value of location—especially those with offices in dense, urban areas. Employees and employers alike are considering the pros and cons of downtown locations as well as renewed suburban revitalization. 

Is downtown dead? Breslau makes the point that rather than downtown ceasing to exist, urban spaces will experience a transformation. 

“Historically, cities remain the center of business and innovation,” said Breslau. “The ability to congregate and challenge each other’s ideas is what allows cities to thrive.” 

The main point is: there is no reversal of urbanization, just a new cycle. Resilience will play a huge factor in maintaining Philadelphia’s innovator status and will help usher the city into the next level of global competitiveness. 

So, how can Philadelphia continue its success moving forward? JLL identifies ten imperatives for city success in a post-COVID-19 world:

  1. Vision and strategy
  2. Metropolitan management
  3. Smart city systems
  4. Resilience strategies
  5. Brand and story
  6. Fiscal autonomy
  7. Investor-friendliness
  8. Agility and responsiveness
  9. Transparency
  10. Land use

Investors will place a higher focus on securing space in cities that are responsible, able to quickly realign supply chains and digitize—all while having a high livability rating for quality of life and affordability.

3. Establish and nurture mutually beneficial partnerships.

JLL defines tiered Global Cities as those with unique specializations, such as the financial industries in London and New York, or the business and health sector in Boston. One commonality of Global Cities is that they have established relationships with one another. Rather than directly competing, they complement each other, building on each other’s strengths to bring about greater and broader impact. These cities demonstrate that while innovation and specialization are important, connectivity is key.

Philadelphia has the opportunity to build relationships with complementary cities like Boston and San Francisco, and globally, like London and Seoul to fuel growth locally and impart significant, widespread impact. Linkage with like-minded cities is crucial to position Philadelphia for continued innovation and recognition.

In addition to building relationships across the map, nurturing relationships with local governmental bodies and organizations is important to continued prosperity. Investors should consider opportunities to grow the Philadelphia workforce by pursuing partnerships with local high schools and community colleges to nurture the young talent that already calls this region home. Offer them opportunities to learn and introduce them to the lifestyle and advantages of working in eds and meds space, and ultimately, invite them to stay for the long-term.

These are all important factors that have contributed to Philadelphia’s rise as a New World City, and, with a focus on positioning for growth and fueling innovation, the city will continue to elevate its rank among the world’s leading urban areas.

More information on investment opportunities in the Philadelphia market and research behind the positive impacts of cell and gene therapy in the city can be found at