Communities of entrepreneurs are creating positive impacts on local economies. When they establish new businesses and innovate across industries, they bring about economic growth and employment. Entrepreneurs are generally drawn to cities because of their available resources and networks, specifically access to knowledge and sector-specific
needs, and the exchange of information that occurs when an entrepreneurial community is brought together. Central to these ecosystems are creative community spaces (CCSs)—a range of physical spaces that enable innovation by creating a convening point for a community of entrepreneurs and start-ups. CCSs serve to anchor entrepreneurial communities and influence the urban economic and physical landscape.

This report showcases a selection of 13 CCSs around the world that contribute to building a community that is sustainable and entrepreneurial and/or is helping advance an industry-specific or sectoral community. The represented spaces include coworking spaces, accelerators, maker spaces, community spaces, incubators, fab labs, and hacker spaces (see the glossary for descriptions of each). This presentation is not an exhaustive analysis. In fact, the featured spaces are a few among many that stand out for their unique impact on the ecosystem based on the services they offer, their networking assets, type of space, and business model, among other variables. These spaces were part of the World Bank Group’s fieldwork or were otherwise learned of through knowledge shared by city innovation practitioners and researchers. This analysis also builds on previous research and programs of the Bank and infoDev on accelerator and community spaces and takes into account global research on this topic.

Together the 13 spaces represent a cross-section of inspirational
examples spanning cities across the globe, ranging from leading metropolises such as New York to growing cities such as Nairobi; each caters to either a general entrepreneurial community or a more industry-specific or sectoral one. This report’s only intent is to showcase inspiring examples and models being implemented in diverse environments across the world. We hope this will help catalyze a conversation about the role of creative spaces in urban ecosystem development and provide policy makers as well as city innovation practitioners and private investors a better understanding of these spaces and how to leverage them effectively.

Each profiled space has been chosen because it represents an inspiring example of a way to support the growth of entrepreneurial communities and boost innovation. To deepen understanding of the mechanisms and models followed to create such impact, this report describes each space’s impact, financial model (funding and revenue sources), and operational model (services and interactive environments). These defining features are contextualized in the background and forming history of each space as well as in its operational function and objectives.

Their impacts are measured across four categories: 1. entrepreneurial communities building, 2. business acceleration, 3. urban regeneration, and 4. industry innovation. Each space fulfills at least one of these dimensions.

Each profile elaborates on the effect of the space, giving specific examples of ongoing programs with demonstrable impact on the community and/or the surrounding urban landscape, often built through collaborations
with industry-specific partners, city government, and educational institutes, among other influential entities. In some instances, spaces have revitalized their neighborhoods by refurnishing and/or reusing old buildings and creating a new entrepreneurial community in previously economically depressed areas. In other instances, city governments have specifically created CCSs to revitalize the social fabric and a specific neighborhood. For instance, in Lisbon the municipality used a fab lab to revive an old downtown neighborhood; and in Málaga, the municipality has been kick-starting the social tissue of new developed areas through these spaces. Moreover, these selected spaces have given rise to a diversity of businesses and ideas: digital educational outreach programs, a revolutionary bone reconstruction company, a self-driving car company, submersible remotely operated vehicles to be used in partnership with local schools and science foundations, new fashion lines, food businesses, and much more.

These spaces are building stronger bridges between industries and start-ups and are contributing to local economies by offering platforms for new ideas to be tested, leading to innovation within long-standing sectors of the economy and gradual job generation.

In many instances, these spaces bring together grassroots innovative communities, entrepreneurs, and established companies in the same building, creating mixing spaces that result in natural collisions and an exchange of ideas that boosts innovation. Through closer analysis of the different characteristics of each of the spaces— impact, funding model, interactive spaces, and services (revenue model)—relevant and informative trends become apparent: (a) Subsidies are the most frequently used form of funding, followed by private ownership; (b) spaces that contribute to entrepreneurial communities building are partly or completely privately owned, while the spaces that have an impact on business acceleration are often subsidized; and (c) the pure subscription model is the most common model among thematic spaces, while hybrid models are more common among general spaces. These trends—just some of the ones highlighted in this report—lend insight into how these spaces operate and help decipher ways they can grow local economies through job generation
and urban revitalization.