The most successful cities tend to be those with their own identities to distinguish them from blander rivals and promote growth, the think-tank concluded.
Too often, successful schemes are replicated in other areas without considering the characteristics that made the original places work, the study finds.
It notes that local decision-makers do not always have the time or money to establish unique strategies. This makes developments feel as if they are "dropped from space" rather than reflecting local identities, said report author Neil Lee.
He called for built environment professionals to consider distinctiveness in everything they do. He also praised Manchester City Council's "entrepreneurial" approach. "It is aware of what makes it special and is building on that," he said.
The report suggests that distinctiveness can include economic specialisms such as the hi-tech sector in Cambridge. Iconic buildings should also be considered in regeneration plans, it adds.
- Ideopolis: Knowledge City-Regions is available at PlanningResource.co.uk/doc.