Introduction

It is now six years since the Oslo region launched its brand strategy and since The Business of Cities began systematically benchmarking Oslo’s progress on the global stage. 

These annual ‘outside-in’ reviews provide a window into how the world sees Oslo, and how its strengths and reputation compare to other high-performing cities on the international stage.

In 2021 we continue to track Oslo’s performance and progress across the widest possible set of more than 750 global benchmarks, rankings and comparative studies. Tracking Oslo's aggregate performance across all benchmarks remains more effective than simply looking at a few indexes. It helps to capture the big picture about how Oslo is performing and how it is perceived by investors, residents, entrepreneurs and visitors, amongst its real peer group of cities internationally. This year, we have again tracked Oslo’s progress in objective indicators and in subjective perception studies, to illuminate the differences between perception and reality.

The last 12 months have seen so much global travel and face-to-face exchange on hold. Nevertheless benchmarks, rankings and other comparative studies of cities continue to shape the global imagination. Global benchmarks shape the intuitions and decisions of businesses and investors, and their audience visibility, particularly in a hybrid world, means they inform the decisions and appetites about which cities to visit, invest in, or consider moving to after the pandemic subsides. 

Figure 1: New areas of post-Covid focus in the global studies and benchmarks

Diversification & Distribution

  • The blended region
  • Hybrid services
  • Agile land use
  • Unlocking new locations

Innovation

  • New industries
  • Green economy
  • Ecosystem & revenue
  • Equipped talent & skills

Brand & Story

  • Health
  • Good Governance
  • Opportunity & Appetite
  • DNA, Values, Openness

Wellbeing & Resilience

  • Future sources of work
  • Preparedness for shocks
  • Civic capital

How is the world starting to think of cities differently after Covid-19?

Global attention has been turning to questions of how well cities protect wellbeing, how well their whole regions work, and how prepared they are for the future of jobs, lifestyle and climate change. Studies of the softer factors that make up cities' overall brand and story - such as governance, values and healthy living - loom larger than ever before (see Figure 1). 

Oslo's status as a city with a faster pace of growth, change and diversification is helping it to emerge from Covid-19 as a special sort of European city. Unlike others, Oslo is still rapidly urbanising. Its shift from commodity-based economic sectors to metropolitan tradeable sectors is still ongoing. It is also upgrading its city systems and assets faster as it heads towards a 2 million person region. This puts Oslo in contrast to other cities where the change drivers are fewer and where the aim will be to tweak existing systems. 

‍This means that the choices and imperatives Oslo now faces will therefore also be unique.

The main priorities will be around:

  • Continuing to diversify the economy and specialising in the top tradeable sectors.
  • Growing the innovation ecosystem, building its innovation clusters, and developing the expert knowledge and skills required to underpin it.
  • Showing to the world that it is possible to grow rapidly while also remaining green, planet-conscious, and commited to the needs and desires of citizens.
  • Protecting wellbeing and work-life balance through regional infrastructure and services, and specialised centres.
  • Sharpening the reputation for warmth, welcome and work-life balance.

A framework fit for post-Covid

This report gauges how Oslo's performance stacks up against global perceptions in these priority areas. Together it provides a lens on how the region can emerge on the front foot as the pandemic subsides. Responding to the way Covid-19 has prompted cities around the world to reflect on what really makes cities work, the report is adjusted to provide a new more, forward-looking analytical framework based around 5 main dimensions. 

The analytical framework underpinning this report:

How is Oslo regarded for its capability to build companies and its access to specialist skills?

2.2
Knowledge and skills

What is the day-to-day physical experience like in Oslo, of working, living and travelling in the region?

4.2
Spaces and places
This report:
  • Provides a full review of Oslo’s comparative performance since the pandemic hit Europe in February 2020.
  • Provides a computed framework of Oslo Region’s performance, and highlights where international perception diverges from this.
  • Assesses whether Oslo’s international visibiity in these comparative studies is improving, declining or stable.
  • Summarises the key implications and actionable priorities for different stakeholder groups in Oslo that together can contribute to creating a high-functioning innovation, business and talent ecosystem (government, businesses, start-ups, universities and others).

The work also includes special features on Oslo's readiness for the hybrid future and a deep dive on the region's attractiveness to talent - both areas that require renewed attention in the year ahead.

As we have updated the underlying framework for assessing the state of Oslo, this report does not evaluate how Oslo’s position has changed year-on-year across the different areas of competitiveness. This will return in future based on the new baseline 2021 data.

Perception
Performance

Explaining the 10-point scale

As in previous years, we detail Oslo’s position in each theme along a 10-point scale, calculated by an algorithm based on all the input benchmarks. Where there are sufficient indicators in both the performance and perception categories, Oslo’s position is shown twice to reflect how performance and perception compare. The scale is explained in more detail in the appendix.

The State of the City report continues to benchmark Oslo among a peer group of 50 regions that are all: medium-sized, upper income, high quality of life, and globally connected.