Athens is the winner of this year's European Capital of Innovation Awards. The contest, which is funded by the EU research and innovation program Horizon 2020, took place in Lisbon, this month and the award consists of 1 million Euros.
The City of Athens has placed a lot of importance to innovation and how it can help the local community bring about change and open up to the world. Some of the innovations promoted include:
1. The POLIS² project aimed to revitalise abandoned buildings by providing small grants to residents, small enterprises, creative communities and other civil society groups and bring life to all corners of Athens.
2. The renovation of the Kypseli Public Market, a 90-year old historical building with the active support of Athens' citizens aims to create a new social entrepreneurship market hosting exhibitions, workshops, theatre shows and other initiatives.
3. Making Serafeio, a popular community playground, a host of initiatives like Athens Digital Lab, Open Schools or Athens Culture Net, and a novel events space, following a joint decision by the municipality and the local community.
4. The Curing the Limbo initiative, which gives refugees and migrants the possibility to connect with other residents in order to learn the language, develop new skills, find employment opportunities, and engage in active citizenship.
5. The Digital Council, in which the city brought together companies and educational institutions to offer trainings on digital literacy and civic technology trainings as well as promote sustainable innovations like smart recycling bins.
6. ‘This is Athens' campaign where the city invites volunteers to talk about the city's present and past to some of the record 5 million tourists that visited Athens in 2017.
The award criteria, ‘experimenting, engaging, expanding, empowering’ analyse how cities use innovation and new technologies to respond to societal challenges, engage broad local communities in their decision-making processes and improve lives of their citizens.
Only a city attractive to its residents can also be attractive to its visitors. This year Athens is breaking any previous record of visitors, reaching a number of over 5,5 million. Coalitions such as This is Athens & Partners, vast opening of brand new hotels and investments on hotels from international firms, confirm that Athens, based on the spirit of cooperation, not only has overcome the recent economic recession, but it has also developed and expanded, taking advantage of innovation.
Athens, with the backdrop of a unique heritage, is now a contemporary hub and a quality destination for leisure and congress tourism.
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