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Athens wins €1m in European Capital of Innovation awards

The city of Athens collected prize money to the tune of €1m after being named European Capital of Innovation Awards 2018.

The award criteria was based on “experimenting, engaging, expanding, empowering”, as well as using innovation and new technology.

The innovations included renovating the 90-year-old Kypseli Public Market, which will host exhibitions, while the POLIS² project has revitalised derelict buildings in Athens to create small enterprises and stimulate creative communities.

The Digital Council has brought together companies and educational institutions to offer training in digital literacy as well as promoting sustainability.

One of the most inspiring is The Curing the Limbo initiative, which offers support to migrants and refugees to connect with others in the community, assistance in learning Greek, as well as finding employment opportunities.

The Greek city has seen a turnaround in its fortunes, weathering an economic crisis. In 2018, Athens had record-breaking visitor numbers of over 5.5 million.

Working together with other partners in the Greek city, new opportunities have opened up, such as partnering with This is Athens & Partners, as well as working with new hotels and investments from overseas companies.

The €1m will go towards funding innovation programmes in Athens and working with other cities. The runner-up cities were Aarhus (Denmark), Hamburg (Germany), Leuven (Belgium), Toulouse (France), and Umeå (Sweden), who each received €100,000.

“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,” said Carlos Moedas, commissioner for research, science and innovation at the award ceremony in Lisbon.

The awards were granted under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme with a budget of €77 billion (2014-2020). The next European Capital of Innovation Awards will be launched in the first quarter of 2019.