European Capital of Innovation 2018 – Athens

The Greek capital used innovation to overcome the economic and social crisis of its past years.

The POLIS² project revitalises abandoned buildings by providing small grants to residents, small enterprises, creative communities and other civil society groups and bring life to all corners of Athens.

Following a public consultation, the city renovated the 90-year old Kypseli Market to host exhibitions, workshops, theatre shows and others. Serafeio, a popular community playground, hosts an increasing number of social initiatives like Athens Digital Lab, Open Schools or Athens Culture Net.

On the frontline of Europe’s refugee crisis, Athens provided digital and traditional skills to migrants with Curing the Limbo.

With the Digital Council, it brings together companies and educational institutions to discuss the overall city’s digital strategy, offer trainings on digital literacy and civic technology, and promote sustainable innovations like smart recycling bins.

Runners-up – Aarhus, Hamburg, Leuven, Toulouse, Umeå

Aarhus – smart technologies to strengthen social cohesion

Aarhus is determined to remain an inclusive city for everyone. The Municipality is in touch with its citizens with Open Office Hours - bi-annual surveys measuring citizens' overall satisfaction. It also actively encourages and support local voluntarism. Almost 1 out of 2 residents participates in 1 or more volunteering activities every year.

The Danish city continues to nurture its thriving innovation ecosystem. A range of testbeds connect citizens playing basketball and children splashing through fountains to researchers and businesses researching or applying latest smart technologies.

In Aarhus City Lab, Living Lab Aarhus, and the South Harbour area, the city is planning the future of mobility. The city committed to become carbon neutral by 2030.

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Hamburg – an exemplary innovation ecosystem

In the heart of Europe's most dynamic economic regions, Hamburg’s Municipality facilitates efficiency, innovation and economies of scale by clustering more than 1,000 players from science, business, academia, public administration and investors.

The city’s research centres and innovation parks uses open data. It lends free space for innovative projects and offers them outstanding infrastructure.

By attracting and retaining talent, the city is home to future-forward industries, ranging from life sciences to fintech. It hosts Germany’s main trading and media hub.

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Leuven – cooperation at all city levels  

Leuven adopted a new, cooperative governance model based on citywide network organisations to tackle pressing urban issues with all interested parties. Leuven MindGate brings together stakeholders from high-tech, health and creativity.

Leuven2030 is pursuing the goal of making the city carbon neutral by 2030. Network governance is also applied in other areas, including education, child and elderly care.

Citizens are leaving a big mark in designing urban spaces.

Empty spaces were renovated and converted for new, social purposes.

  • HAL 5: an old train station transformed into food court, social grocery offering reduced rates for low-income citizens, children’s gymnasium and a venue for social events
  • Stel Plaats: a storage house that became a meeting space for vulnerable teenagers, who are now taught arts and business skills.

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Toulouse – the 'open metropolis'

The administration interacts with citizens through technology. Large sets of open data, MyOpenCity, and robot Violette assists citizens with issues relates to public services. With nacelle - pop-up installations throughout the city - Toulouse consults citizens about new and existing projects.

The Laboratory of Usages gathers start-ups, businesses and a large  number of citizens in order to co-build the city of tomorrow. Toulouse tests prototypes emerging from the local start-up community, from apps for school canteens or retailers and sensors for innovative light generation and more.

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Umeå – creativity, culture, and gender equality

Gender equality and equal opportunities are principles cherished at all levels of the city management.

Neighbourhood investment packages make sure that the entire city is engaged.

Women engagement is sustained in many ways. They are encouraged to enter sustainability ventures and the biotech field. The city organises gendered landscape tours for visitors and tourists.

Via the online platform Kulturverket, children present their ideas to the municipality. City parks are equipped to increase the safety and comfort of young girls.

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The award ceremony

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, announced the European Capital of Innovation 2018 at the Lisbon Web Summit,  the world's largest annual tech conference.

The European Commission awarded the winner and runner-up cities based on the evaluation by an external jury. The panel was composed of leading experts in public sector innovation, urban design, civic engagement and participation.

List of other finalists