The Greek capital city Athens has been awarded the EU’s prestigious European Capital of Innovation 2018 title, with a prize of €1 million.
The prize money will be used to promote innovation activity in Athens and foster collaboration with other cities. The runner up cities – Aarhus (Denmark), Hamburg (Germany), Leuven (Belgium), Toulouse (France), and Umeå (Sweden) – each received €100,000. 26 cities in 16 Member States applied to be considered for the European Capital of Innovation 2018.
Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: “Cities are beacons of innovation. They act like magnets for talent, for capital, for opportunity. With the European Capital of Innovation 2018, we reward the cities that go the extra mile to test new ideas, technologies and ways to make citizens heard in the way their city is changed. Athens stands out as an example that a city facing many challenges can achieve great things. Through innovation, Athens has found new purpose to turn around the economic and social crisis. It is proof that it’s not the difficulties but how you raise yourself above them that matters.”
Innovations produced in Athens which contributed to its European Capital of Innovation 2018 win included:
- POLIS2 – a project which provides small grants to residents, small businesses and creative communities to revitalise abandoned buildings;
- Curing the Limbo – an initiative connecting refugees and migrants with local residents to help them learn the language and integrate into the city;
- The Digital Council – a city-sponsored scheme to promote digital solutions, both by boosting digital skills training and developing sustainable, tech-enabled smart city initiatives; and
- The renovation of the 90-year-old Kypseli Public Market, creating a “social entrepreneurship” market space to host exhibitions, workshops and other creative projects.
The competition, which began in 2014 and is spearheaded by the Horizon 2020 programme, was judged by a cohort of independent representatives of business, administration, universities and non-profits. European Capital of Innovation 2018 judges analysed cities’ use of innovation and new technology to address societal concerns, with a brief highlighting the importance of cities’ “experimenting, engaging, expanding [and] empowering” their communities.