Athens, Greece is the winner of this year’s European Capital of Innovation Awards, funded by the EU research and innovation program Horizon 2020. The city will receive €1 million (~$1,122,200 US) that will be used to scale up local innovation activities and collaborate with other cities.
“Cities are beacons of innovation. They act like magnets for talent, for capital, for opportunity. With the European Capital of Innovation, we reward the cities that go the extra mile to test new ideas, technologies and ways to make citizens heard in the way their city is changed”. Carlos Moedas, EU commissioner for research, science and innovation, said. “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.”
Some of the city’s innovations include:
- The POLIS project – revitalizing abandoned buildings by providing small grants to residents, small enterprises, creative communities, and other civil society groups;
- The renovation of the Kypseli Public Market – a 90-year old historical building now hosting exhibitions, workshops, theater shows, and other initiatives;
- The Curing the Limbo initiative – giving 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 – companies and educational institutions are offering training on digital literacy and civic technology training as well as promoting sustainable innovations like smart recycling bins; and,
- ‘This is Athens’ campaign – where the city invites volunteers to talk about the city’s present and past to tourists.