Dublin is in the running to be the 2021 European Capital of Innovation

8 Nov 2021

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Dublin’s application for the EU award focused on a number of innovation initiatives in the city, as well as the work of universities, research centres and start-up hubs.

Dublin is one of four cities in the running to be named European Capital of Innovation 2021.

It is up against Germany’s Dortmund, Spain’s Malaga and Lithuanian capital Vilnius for the award, which recognises cities with ecosystems that can boost game-changing innovation.

Future Human

In addition, Cascais in Portugal, Trondheim in Norway, and Vantaa in Finland are finalists for the title of European Rising Innovative City, which focuses on towns and cities that have a smaller population than those in the main category.

These are part of the iCapital awards, supported by the European Innovation Council (EIC) under the EU’s new Horizon Europe research and development programme.

The awards identify cities that connect citizens, academia and businesses in ways that allow for the experimentation of innovative concepts and tools, help accelerate the growth of innovative start-ups, and shape a local innovation ecosystem.

“The finalist cities test new innovative concepts on a large scale and join the group of pioneering cities that actively push boundaries of urban innovation,” said Mariya Gabriel, European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth.

“These cities can be an inspiration for others to make the community of innovative cities grow.”

The winners of the European Capital of Innovation awards will be announced at the EIC Summit on 24 November.

The European Capital of Innovation winner will receive a €1m prize, while the two runners-up will receive €100,000. The winning European Rising Innovative City will be awarded €500,000, while runners-up in that category will bag €50,000.

Dublin’s innovation ecosystem

Dublin City Council’s application for the award highlighted a number of initiatives including the Smart District programmes from Smart Dublin and the Small Business Innovation Research programme from Enterprise Ireland, as well as the work of universities, research centres and start-up hubs.

Jamie Cudden, smart city programme manager at Dublin City Council, said the application focused on showing “the breadth of innovation” happening in the city.

“From our Smart District programmes, where the City Council and partners fast-track innovation projects, to Dogpatch Labs, home to some of Ireland’s most innovative, high-potential start-ups, there is so much exciting work to be proud of across Dublin,” he said.

“At the core of the application was how the city’s ‘innovation ecosystem’ – a network of many different stakeholders, community groups, companies, NGOs, researchers, public bodies – are exploring new technology, new processes, new services and new ways of working, to build a better, greener, more inclusive and resilient city.”

Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council, added that being named as a finalist was a testament to the “wealth of highly innovative initiatives, companies, research and people” working in Dublin.

The first iCapital prize took place in 2014 and past winners include Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris, Athens, Nantes and Leuven. This year, 39 applications were received from across the EU and countries associated with Horizon Europe.

iCapital is one of the four EIC prizes granted under Horizon Europe.

One of the others, the EU Prize for Women Innovators, has named seven Irish finalists. Winners for that prize will also be announced at the EIC Summit later this month.

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Sarah Harford is sub-editor of Silicon Republic