As community engagement gains recognition as an effective way to improve the lives of European citizens, the EU is increasingly acknowledging and cultivating the role of cities as the home of an innovative and engaging culture of co-creation.

Giuseppe Ruotolo

In recent years, many European cities have been working towards ensuring social integration through civil participation, making urban innovation is as much about social cohesion as it is about energy efficiency or smart technology. With this in mind we need deepen our understanding of how we can facilitate the fundamental need of inhabitants to play a more prominent role in designing their cities' governance. This will involve exploring new, effective ways to streamline urban activities and maximise their impact, while enhancing a bottom-up approach for the integration and subsequent wellbeing of citizens.

We rely on our cities to drive citizen engagement and co-creation, through the developing of effective R&I policy models focused on integration and the strengthening of ties within the community's innovation ecosystem.

Co-creation across all stages, from ideas to implementation, is a leading principle of the European Capital of Innovation Award. This EU-initiated award acknowledges cities' outstanding achievements in building up their innovation ecosystem, and supports a community's capacity to attract talent, skill and enterprise. By show-casing award winners as role models, other cities can enhance citizens' engagement and maximise the impact of local actions. Applicant cities stand as 'shining examples of how cities can put innovation to work to improve the way people live and businesses work' (Commissioner Carlos Moedas, April 2016).

Since its launch in 2013, the award has attracted the interest of cities across the EU. Former winners, Barcelona and Amsterdam, can now legitimately position themselves as innovation leaders, and act as role models for cities that 'stand ready' to compete in the next edition.

To reflect the above elements, this year's competition will award the city most willing to experiment with new and innovative citizen-driven initiatives, proving itself as a 'test-bed' for potential solutions to relevant societal challenges. Participants will be judged on the extent to which they allow citizens to experiment; ensure the uptake of the ideas and expand and empower their innovation ecosystem. Cities will be requested to prove how innovative solutions are mainstreamed into their urban development process; new methods of attracting new talent, resources, funding, and investments through innovative practices, and the subsequent impact on the community, will be closely examined.

The competition will be open to cities home to over 100,000 inhabitants in any EU Member State or country associated to Horizon 2020. The winning city will receive EUR 1.000.000, with two cash prizes of EUR 100.000 for each of the two runners-up.