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2021 rankings: Amsterdam and the Netherlands excel in tech, sustainability and quality of life

In 2021 Amsterdam and the Netherlands continued to dominate global rankings measuring innovation, readiness for future technology and the business ecosystem. Here is our round-up of the year.  

Another year has come to a close with Amsterdam and the Netherlands making bigger strides than ever in business, from tech innovation to scientific impact. We’ve rounded up the rankings and reports that defined the Amsterdam Area in 2021 and give an idea of milestones to come.

One of the safest and happiest places in the world

In 2021, Time Out named Amsterdam the world’s 2nd best city and an “environmentally aware metropolis”. The Netherlands was also named the 5th happiest country in the world in the UN’s World Happiness Report, scoring highly in trust in public institutions, mental health and well-being, employment satisfaction and social support. Meanwhile, The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Amsterdam the 6th safest city in the world.

A promising environment for startups and scale-ups

Amsterdam held its top 5 position in the fDi and TNW Tech Cities of the Future ranking, which assesses cities on foreign direct investment, startup environment and innovation. The city scored highly in FDI Performance and Startup Environment, reflecting its large number of FDI projects in IT and software services and its range of financing options for startups. 

Also this year Amsterdam was ranked world’s 4th best city for foreign investment, climbing four places since the previous ranking in 2018-19, and placed in the top 10 cities in Europe for scale-ups, thanks to supportive economic policies and a strong ecosystem.

A record-breaking year for tech

Amsterdam is the fifth biggest European hub by capital invested, attracting $3.6bn in the first nine months of 2021, compared to $893m for the whole of 2020. The State of European Tech report also found Amsterdam’s tech pioneers Adyen and Mollie helped boost the Netherlands’ - and Europe’s - position as a global tech power. In 2022, Adyen is set to be the first European tech company founded post-2000 to hit the $100bn mark, making it a hectocorn.

One of the most digitally connected places in Europe

The Netherlands ranked 4th in Europe in the EU’s Digital Society Index thanks to fast connection speeds and comprehensive digital infrastructure. The index found people in the Netherlands remain well above average in digital skills, and the number of trained tech specialists is steadily increasing.

A greener city

Efforts continue across sectors to improve sustainability in business. Although more work needs to be done, Amsterdam is heading in the right direction. Schroders found Amsterdam’s environmental policies and ambitions are the best in Europe. Amsterdam also topped the green finance ranking this year for its sustainability-minded finance services.

Top 5 position for smart mobility

The Netherlands leads the way in smart mobility with the country’s widespread acceptance of electric cars and high density of charging stations. This year Amsterdam ranked 5th in the world for urban mobility readiness and the Netherlands 5th in electric vehicle readiness.

Reigning world number one in English proficiency

The Netherlands once again ranked the best non-native speaking nation for English language. The research from Education First finds a correlation between English proficiency and economic productivity, talent competitiveness and global innovation.

World-leading scientific impact and innovation

During almost two years of a world-changing pandemic, science and technology have moved at lightning speed. In 2021 a new report found scientific research in Amsterdam has the third highest impact in the world.

Meanwhile innovation in the Netherlands is making waves globally. The Netherlands claimed a top 10 spot in the coveted Global Innovation Index 2021, which measured countries on investments in innovation amid the toll of COVID-19, where new ideas are critical for post-pandemic economic growth.

4th in global competitiveness for second year

Despite the coronavirus crisis, the Netherlands held its number four position in the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking, which found the countries that performed best are leading in innovation, digitalisation and leadership. A strong social safety net, including unemployment benefits, and a solid health infrastructure helped countries bounce back quicker, it said.