Athens, Greece has been named the 2018 European Capital of Innovation for the innovative ways in which it has overcome social and economic challenges and turned them into new opportunities.
The €1 million iCapital first prize was announced at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal on 6 November, with five other European cities receiving runner-up prizes of €100,000.
‘Athens has shown a new dimension to what we mean by innovation. It is not only for the powerful, well-resourced and prosperous cities,
Austerity, economic hardship and being on the frontline of Europe’s refugee crisis have created immense social challenges for the people of Athens.
The city is responding by applying innovation at a social level. For example, a project called Curing the Limbo is connecting the growing refugee population to local citizens, by providing them with affordable living spaces, whilst in return, refugees work for the public benefit and recieve on-the-job training from the University of Athens. The refugees will acquire skills in language learning, psychosocial support and knowledge about their legal rights.
The iCapital cash prize is an annual award which recognises a city’s unique approach to innovation.
Cities are judged on how well they foster open innovation, engage and empower citizens in governance and decision-making, and come up with original solutions to social challenges, sustainability and improving the lives of residents. They are also evaluated on how well they set an example for other cities to follow in their steps.
To apply, a city must have a population of more than 100,000 people and be located in an EU country, or one that is associated with Horizon 2020, EU’s research and innovation programme.
Athens sees itself as a city that has been able to do more with less. It prides itself on the compassion of its inhabitants and sees itself as a pioneer of innovation that will help societies address future challenges.