San Francisco (including Silicon Valley) remains in the top spot. (Not a big surprise here. I knew I moved here for a reason from Salt Lake City in October 2002.) In the rankings, only 10 non-U.S. regions even make the top 50 and the top 14 are all in the U.S.
My feeling is that there is somewhat of a power law effect (referencing network theory and social network analysis) in operation for cities or regions in regards to "knowledge workers" sometimes also known "creative class" individuals. I know that I can work remotely from anywhere (and I did this for four years from Salt Lake City while working for Open Market in Cambridge, MA -- which later moved to the Route 128 corridor -- btw, Boston is #2 in this 2004 survey.)
But I found myself craving cutting-edge, stimulating interaction with real, live bright and curious people. For me, anyway, all the social software in the world can't replace the palpable energy and vibrancy of a dinner party or conference hall chat. And I think one of the reasons that Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area "works" is that there are dozens upon dozens of any variety and diversity of face-to-face gatherings every single day. And I think people here are (for most part) curious, have a passion for learning, challenging their own thinking and respecting diverse views.
"Creative agents cluster around other creative agents, reinforcing each other's productivity. Creative agents then come together to form larger economic units or firms. These firms then locate in cities where they grow and develop. Cities in turn grow and develop as locations for creative agents and firms." - Richard Florida, The Rise of the Creative Class
One should not lose track of the fact this report is a snapshot for 2004. Regions apparently can move up or down quite a bit from year to year. For instance, Helsinki moved up 18 places and Austin moved down 7 in 2003 (ouch, from #2 last year).
It's not clear without reading the report how much it takes into account future scenarios for growth or decline. I'm primarily interested in "emerging" areas myself -- and eventually intend to visit these emerging creative-class centers first-hand. (I sometimes wonder if knowledge just in and of itself is valuable -- in the end, it must generate social capital or financial capital; so that's the type of knowledge I am interested in.)
The press release does note that Europe is on a slippery slope vis-a-vis Asia. Scandinavia does quite well -- something that Richard Florida (of creative class fame) also noted. The Huggins Associates press release makes mention of the worldwide knowledge competitiveness of Scandinavia saying: "Nordic regions perform well in 2004, with the two best performing non-US regions Stockholm (15th) and Uusimaa (Helsinki) (19th) in Finland rising by 3 and 18 places respectively, compared with 2003."
Now I really wish I had more time in Helsinki and Stockholm this summer!