Doing more with less

Why Athens was named the 2018 European Capital of Innovation

Athens was awarded by the European Commission the title of European Capital of Innovation 2018 at
the Web Summit that took place on the 6 th of November in Lisbon. The award – that beyond the title
includes a €1 million prize- comes as recognition of the city’s success in deploying innovation to
overcome the recent economic and social crisis and engaging citizens in this process.

‘Experimenting, Engaging, Expanding, Empowering’ were the criteria set by the European Commission
for this award in an attempt to analyse how cities use innovation and new technologies to respond to
societal challenges, how they engage broad local communities in their decision-making processes and
how they improve lives of their citizens. During the last years Athens was found in the center of a
‘perfect storm’, as Amalia Zepou, Vice- Mayor for civil society and innovation said. In this setting,
innovation in Athens often sprung out of improvised trials and errors, leading to genuine models of
social and government innovation, citizen-driven innovation and co-governance.

A number of innovative projects led by the municipality have been at the heart of Athens’ application for
the award. Some of them, such as the innovative mechanism of synAthina and the "Kypseli Market"
form already the backbone of Athens’ engagement in the ROCK project as a role-model city for
mentoring other cities in themes related to public consultation, democracy and culture. Others initiatives
include Polis² (Polis Square), an innovative concept that invites citizens to co-create the city’s identity
based on methods of community engagement and Curing the Limbo, a project in the framework of
EU’s Urban Innovative Actions programme, that connects the refugee population to the active citizens of
Athens, in a cyclical exchange system that will also address pressing and recurring city needs.

Athens has become the proof that through innovation, cities can do more with less. Athens’ mayor,
Georgios Kaminis said that ‘Athens has shown a new dimension to what we mean by innovation. It is
not only for the powerful, well-resourced and prosperous cities, it is for everyone’. The award gives the
opportunity to scale up and embrace existing strategies, including bottom-up approaches in resolving
city challenges, engagement of different stakeholders and innovative approaches of cooperation with(in)
the municipality.

Author: Magkou Matina - ADDMA