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Research and innovation

European Capital of Innovation (iCapital) 2019

Full details of the 2019 iCapital contest, the winner, runners-up and links to all finalists.

European Capital of Innovation 2019 - Nantes

The city of Nantes is an excellent example of how a city can harness democratic participation to tackle challenges like energy, ageing, the digital transition and social inclusion.

The city is putting its vision of open governance into practice by ensuring dialogue with a wide range of participants is embedded firmly in all its public policies.  

Nantes engaged over 50,000 citizens in 'Grands Débats' to discuss topics such as the energy transition, and drew up a roadmap of 33 ambitious commitments.

Citizens submitted initiatives to an open competition, which led to 15 locations around the city undergoing a reinvention.

Some of these included

  • a disused chapel turning into a urban mushroom farm
  • a former school art academy becoming a zero-waste awareness hub
  • an old restaurant being turned into a community canteen

Other initiatives

Nantes invests in social innovation through Ecossolies, a network promoting joint initiatives between private and public partners in the social and solidarity economy.

Nantes City Lab provides innovators with a physical space to test new solutions like autonomous shuttles powered by solar roads and 3D-printed social housing.

Nantes French Tech Capital programme fosters startups, attracting talent and encouraging breakthrough technologies.

Creative and cultural industries receive support from Creative factory and the Eco-innovation factory programme for projects such as one collecting biowaste from restaurants and offices with bicycle trailers for local composting.

Discover the rich portfolio of Nantes' activities.

Runners-up – Antwerp, Bristol, Espoo, Glasgow, Rotterdam

Antwerp (Belgium) – the big link

Antwerp has striven to allow innovation, creative arts and the digital economy flourish.

After 20 years of deadlock, the city is partnering with its citizens to tackle one of the biggest infrastructure projects of the century: transforming large swathes of the unfinished ring road surrounding the city.

The project will create new housing, schools and sport spaces, but also take environmental projects - such as flood detection, air filtering, and mobility – to the next level.

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Bristol (United Kingdom) – One City

Bristol is reinventing how citizens, politicians and local businesses can innovate together.

With a unique governance model - the ‘One City’ approach - the municipality is identifying and responding to city challenges such as ageing, inequality and resource consumption by talking with business, communities charities, academic and public sector.

The municipality is also advising on how these stakeholders can adapt their goals and practices to improve the city.

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Espoo (Finland) – it’s all about the people

The second-largest and fastest-growing city in Finland is using innovation to stay on an already remarkably sustainable path.

Strongly committed to reaching the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2025, Espoo cherishes its strong education system and sense of community. In robust health despite the crisis of its most famous resident a few years back – Nokia Corporation – the city continues to be a world-class startup and digital hub. The Espoo Innovation Garden is the largest innovation hub in the Nordic countries.

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Glasgow (United Kingdom) – a city innovated by empowered citizens

The Scottish city is a ‘twin-track’ city of contrasts: a world leader in new economies within digital, science and technology, but with striking poverty and health inequality. In response, Glasgow is building an ecosystem of civic innovation, such as the Centre for Civic Innovation, to drive an inclusive growth agenda that catalyses business, universities and communities.

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Rotterdam (The Netherlands) – a resilient Rotterdam 

In Rotterdam, innovation is a way to achieve sustainability. Known for its harbour, Rotterdam is conscious of the ecological pressure on today’s society and launched a raft of initiatives to improve the city’s sustainability and new economies. These include

  • regenerating disadvantaged areas across the city
  • supporting startups and creative industries through the Rotterdam Makers’ District
  • the ambition to make its port – the largest in Europe – the most sustainable in the world

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The award ceremony

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, announced the European Capital of Innovation 2019 at the European Research and Innovation Days on 25 September in Brussels.

The European Commission awarded the winner and runner-up cities based on the evaluation by an external jury. The panel was made up of leading experts in public sector innovation, urban design, civic engagement and participation.

List of other finalists


The title was awarded to Nantes in recognition for its outstanding ability to harness innovation to improve the lives of its citizens and its open and collaborative governance model