The European Commission awarded Athens the title of the European Capital of Innovation 2018, in recognition of the city’s use of innovation to overcome the recent economic and social crisis. For its extraordinary efforts, the Greek capital was presented with the title, accompanied by a €1 million prize. The prize money will be used to scale up local innovation activities and collaboration with other cities.
The European Capital of Innovation Award is an annual cash prize awarded to the European city that is best able to demonstrate its ability to harness innovation to improve the lives of its citizens – especially in order to contribute to open and dynamic innovation ecosystems, involve citizens in governance and decision-making and use innovation to improve its resiliency and sustainability as a city.
Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, announced this year’s winning city at the Web Summit in Lisbon, on 6 November 2018: "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."
The Municipality of Athens has placed a lot of importance on innovation and helping the local community to bring about change and open up to the world. Some of the innovations promoted include:
- The POLIS² project, aiming to revitalise 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.
- The renovation of the Kypseli Public Market, a 90-year old historical building with active support of Athens' citizens aims to create a new social entrepreneurship market hosting exhibitions, workshops, theatre shows and other initiatives.
- Turning Serafeio, a popular community playground, into a host of initiatives like Athens Digital Lab, Open Schools or Athens Culture Net, and a novel events space, following a joint decision by the municipality and the local community.
- The Curing the Limbo initiative, which gives refugees and migrants the possibility to connect with other residents in order to learn the language, develop new skills, find employment opportunities, and engage in active citizenship.
- The Digital Council, in which the city brought together companies and educational institutions to offer training on digital literacy and civic technology as well as to promote sustainable innovative initiatives like smart recycling bins.
- The campaign ‘This is Athens', where the city invites volunteers to talk about the city's present and past to some of the record 5 million tourists that visited Athens in 2017.
The awards were launched in 2014. They are funded by Horizon 2020, the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). Past winners include Barcelona (2014), Amsterdam (2016) and Paris (2017). The runner-up cities of this year’s competition are Aarhus (Denmark), Hamburg (Germany), Leuven (Belgium), Toulouse (France), and Umeå (Sweden), with each receiving a €100,000 prize.
Read also via Greek News Agenda: 2nd Athens Innovation Festival; One City. Never Ending Stories. This is Athens; Ithaca laundry for the homeless: Restoring dignity; Social Hackers Academy: A coding school for refugees and other vulnerable groups; Funding Greek post-doc researchers: the best antidote to 'brain drain'; European Innovation Scoreboard: SMEs lead the way for innovation in Greece; Alternate Minister for Research and Innovation addresses the 67th ERC Scientific Council plenary meeting