It’s no secret that Athens has experienced both economic and social difficulties in recent years, from dealing with the country’s financial crisis that began in 2010 to its active role in helping manage the European refugee crisis. But through the hardships, local authorities and organizations in the city have sought to counter the many difficulties through initiatives relying on innovation and solidarity.
The European Commission has now celebrated those efforts, naming Athens the winner of the “European Capital of Innovation” prize on Tuesday.
According to commission, the annual prize is awarded to the European city that is best able to demonstrate its ability to harness innovation to improve the lives of its citizens. Of particular focus are cities that contribute to open and dynamic innovation ecosystems; involve citizens in governance and decision-making; and use innovation to improve the resiliency and sustainability of their cities.
“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, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal on November 6.
Along with the title, the Commission awarded the capital with 1 million euros to be used to augment the city’s current projects, like Curing the Limbo, an effort to provide the refugee population with affordable housing, social services and job training, or POLIS², a project aimed at restoring the city’s abandoned buildings.
Other finalist cities for the award included Aarhus, Antwerp, Bristol, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Leuven, Lisbon, Madrid, Toulouse, Umeå and Vienna, each of which received 100,000 euros for their respective city projects.