Six cities championing outstanding innovation strategies to improve the lives of citizens and business entered the final stage of this year’s European Capital of Innovation contest funded under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme.
The finalists are:
Aarhus (Denmark): the Danish city is a pioneer of smart city technologies such as using cutting-edge sensor technology to tackle peak traffic and reduce fuel consumption. It has a long tradition of open data, accessible and usable by everyone, and it has made engagement a policy matter. With almost 2700 active volunteering clubs, this is a place where every other citizen volunteers. All city departments have resources dedicated to foster dialogue and contact with citizens, and make the most out of such civic spirit.
Athens (Greece): In times of national austerity and economic hardship, the Greek capital broke fresh ground with new social innovation initiatives. With “Curing the Limbo”, Athens is giving refugees and underprivileged citizens the chance to afford housing, develop work skills or find employment. In addition, the Digital Council formed an alliance with private partners to support digital literacy and foster civic technology such as smart recycling bins.
Hamburg (Germany): An economic and innovation powerhouse, the German city is running for the crown of innovation capital by linking science, business and governance, and putting them to work on solving societal challenges. To name but a few examples, Hamburg’s university and climate clusters are helping scientists predict and mitigate climate change, the city hosts Europe’s biggest district for car sharing and electro-mobility, and it organises a workshop fostering 6 200 citizen contributions and urban dialogues.
Leuven (Belgium): Hosting one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities, Leuven is working hard to transfer its wealth of knowledge and talent to all corners of society through collaborative governance. Leuven MidGate, a network organisation, stimulates cross-pollination and closer ties between its members. Leuven 2030 brings together 100 organisations and private members committed to climate-oriented measures that will make the city carbon neutral by the end of the next decade.
Toulouse (France): The strategy of ‘Open Metropolis’ involves citizens as innovation players and mobilises them to back innovation processes (they were even consulted about the city’s application to become European Capital of Innovation). The Laboratory of Usages is one of the locations bringing together start-ups, citizens, business and administration to propose and experiment ideas, such as the “artificially intelligent” chatbot Violette, who assists citizens in public administration matters 24/7.
Umeå (Sweden): This tiny city in North East Sweden become a leader in urban innovation by harbouring great ambitions for its citizens whilst remaining truthful to its values of community, inclusiveness, creativity and gender equality. The merits of Umeå, which is working to increase its population size by more than a half by 2050, go from hosting world-class universities to testing new methods of engaging citizens, as for example asking them to paintball buildings as a way of expressing their preferences during their renovation.
The winner – European Capital of Innovation 2018 – will be announced on 6 November at the Web Summit in Lisbon (Portugal). The city demonstrating the best innovation ecosystem will win a prize of €1 million to scale up its innovation activities. The five runners-up will receive €100 000 each.