Centre for Cities, who published the findings, say weaknesses must be address if the UK is to attract industries offering long-term growth and prosperity.
The think-tank’s study of 63 UK cities showed that nine out of 10 performed below the European average for productivity and three out of four had a lower proportion of highly skilled workers.
Of the UK cities, only Cambridge and Oxford were in the European top 20 for innovation while the UK economy relied on a handful of high-performing cities for economic growth, said the report.
Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “No other economy in Europe is so dependent on the performance of its cities, yet too many of the UK’s urban areas are failing to realise their potential.
“For the country to thrive in the years to come, it’s vital that the Government works with cities to address the skills and productivity gaps holding most places back.
“In particular, the Government should ensure that any new funding commitments in the Autumn Statement focus on boosting the key drivers of growth in cities, such as skills, transport and housing.
“Over the long term, it should also build on its devolution agenda by giving places the powers they need - and which European counterparts already enjoy - to grow their local economies.”
A Government spokesman said: “Improving productivity, rewarding working people with higher wages and creating more opportunities for young people is at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy.
“And our landmark devolution deals - backed up by billions of pounds of Government investment - are giving local people unprecedented powers to drive forward growth in their area.”