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Research and innovation
News article5 March 2020Directorate-General for Research and Innovation2 min read

The 2020 European Capital of Innovation contest opens: Apply by 23 June

Cities that excel in putting innovation to the service of their citizens have once again an opportunity to win the European Capital of Innovation award. Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, launched the 2020 edition of the contest today at the Startup Youth InnoCamp in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Also known as iCapital, this annual prize is funded by Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme. It recognizes European cities that develop vibrant innovation ecosystems in order to address current public challenges and improve the lives of their citizens.

Commissioner Gabriel said:

Innovation can help cities improve the wellbeing of their citizens and turn challenges such as climate change, urban mobility or inequality into opportunities. This is what the European Capital of Innovation prize is about. It champions cities as key players in the transition to environmentally, economically and socially sustainable Europe.

The prize awards six European cities in total. The first prize winner will join the community of previous European Capitals of Innovation – Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris, Athens and Nantes. It will receive €1 million to ensure that its best innovative practices are shared and multiplied. To scale up innovation ecosystems across Europe, the contest will also reward the first five runners-up with €100 000 each to support their innovation activities and to enhance their capacity to connect citizens, public sector, academia, and businesses in order to deliver societal benefits for their communities.

The competition is open to cities with a minimum of 100 000 inhabitants from EU Member States and countries associated to Horizon 2020. A high-level jury of independent experts will evaluate how the applicant cities are pushing the boundaries of innovation by looking at the following criteria:

  • Experimenting by testing and promoting innovative solutions to their societal challenges;
  • Engaging citizens to participate to innovation, including designing policy and participate to its day-to-day implementation and use;
  • Expanding its innovation capacity by becoming a desired destination for prospective entrepreneurs and a role model for other cities;
  • Empowering citizens with tangible and measurable results of innovation.

The contest is open for applications until 23 June 2020 (17:00 CET). The first winner and the five runners-up will be announced during the European Research and Innovation Days on 22-24 September 2020 in Brussels.


The European Capital of Innovation Awards contest is run and funded under Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme. It acknowledges cities as unique actors in advancing innovation and significantly contributing to greater resiliency, sustainability and quality of life.

Barcelona won the first competition in 2014 for its use of new technologies to bring the city closer to people, fostering economic growth and the welfare of its citizens. Amsterdam won in 2016 for creating an innovation ecosystem with four dimensions: smart, start-ups, liveability and digital social innovation. Paris was named European Capital of Innovation in 2017 for its support in growing the local start-up community and the initiatives it offer its citizens to actively co-create the city. In 2018, Athens won the title as example of a city that, despite facing many challenges, used innovation to help the local community bring about change and open up to the world. Nantes received the 2019 title for accelerating democratic participation in tackling challenges such as energy, ageing, the digital transition and social inclusion.

More information

European Capital of Innovation award


Publication date
5 March 2020
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation