Dublin shares runner-up prize for European Capital of Innovation 2021

25 Nov 2021

The Dublin team at the European Capital of Innovation awards in Brussels. Image: Blathnaid O'Dea/SiliconRepublic.com

Dublin and Malaga shared the runner-up title, while Dortmund was declared the European Capital of Innovation this year.

Dublin has been selected as joint runner-up at this year’s European Capital of Innovation (iCapital) Awards, which were held in Brussels yesterday evening (24 November).

The Irish capital and Malaga will both receive €100,000 in prize money, while overall winner Dortmund will get €1m. The winners were announced on the first day of the European Innovation Council (EIC) Summit 2021.

Now in their seventh year, the EU’s iCapital awards celebrate Europe’s most innovative cities. Dublin was one of four finalists in its category, which also included Dortmund, Malaga and third-placed Vilnius.

Introducing Dublin to the audience at the EIC Summit, Mariya Gabriel, European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth, name-checked CoderDojo, Dogpatch Labs, Smart Dublin and tech-for-good education initiative Academy of the Near Future.

She said the “rapid increase of Dublin’s innovation network” was “exceptional” thanks to collaboration between academic networks, businesses, NGOs and citizens.

Representing Dublin, Deputy Lord Mayor and Dublin City councillor Joe Costello agreed that the Irish capital’s place in the final was “a story of collaboration”.

After the ceremony, Costello told SiliconRepublic.com that coming joint second was “certainly an achievement” considering this was the first year the city entered. He paid tribute to the “Trojan work” his colleagues and the team on Dublin City Council put into building Dublin’s case.

Their work involved bringing together Dublin’s research centres, universities, citizens and state bodies. Costello, who is a Labour councillor for Dublin City, said he and his colleagues had a dual role to ensure the city provides services as well as “having a vision and a future to improve the city”.

When asked about the ongoing controversy surrounding the Dublin housing market, particularly for students and people on lower incomes, Costello said he was positive about the future. “I’ve been about 30 years in politics now, and we’ve always complained. We’ve always [been] giving out.

“I wouldn’t be in politics if I wasn’t positive,” he added. “I also believe a lot of bad things have been done and a lot of damage has been done. There’s no doubt about that. But I believe very strongly that we should be positive and that we can only look forward to improving the city and making it a better place to live in.”

Costello stressed the need for all bodies “to continue to work in a collaborative fashion” to achieve that goal.

Finnish city Vantaa scooped the top prize for European Rising Innovative City, receiving €500,000 in prize money. This year’s event was the first to feature this additional category aimed at rising innovator cities with smaller populations than those in the main category.

Last year’s iCapital winner was Leuven, and past winners include Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris, Athens and Nantes.

Women innovators

iCapital is one of the four EIC prizes granted under the EU’s Horizon Europe research and development programme.

The 2021 EIC Summit is to conclude today (25 November) when the winners of the EU Prize for Women Innovators will be announced. Seven of the 13 women entrepreneurs nominated are Irish.

Nova Leah’s Anita Finnegan, Beats Medical’s Ciara Clancy, Votechnik’s Lisa O’ Donoghue, SoapBox Labs’ Patricia Scanlon and HidraMed’s Suzanne Moloney are all competing for the main award. There will be three winners with prizes of €100,000 each.

There are also two Irish women in contention for the EU Rising Innovator award. They are sisters Ailbhe and Izzy Keane of Izzy Wheels, a business that designs and sells wheel covers for wheelchairs.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.