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European Innovation Council

Lisbon (Portugal)

The European Capital of Innovation - winner: Lisbon (Portugal)

People walking in the sun at the riverside in front of the ew Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) in LIsbon - a wave shaped silver building.

Lisbon Unicorn Capital - Home of the Believers

Lisbon’s tech scene has met unprecedented growth in the past two years. Home to one of the most dynamic ecosystems in Europe, the City is now branded the “Unicorn Capital” and has been attracting entrepreneurs from around the world. The City is putting in place a new strategy to develop large scale companies and connect technology with culture, sustainability, and citizen engagement.   

This strategy is based on the creation of the Unicorn Factory, a unique platform aiming at supporting entrepreneurs in scaling up their business and attracting foreign companies to set offices in Lisbon. In less than a year, Lisbon has drawn 12 pre-existing unicorns from US, China, Israel, Brazil, and India, and built infrastructure to create more from scratch.

The Unicorn Factory has simultaneously increased the number of early-stage start-ups and selected the top 1% of most successful companies to help them jump into the next level with access to world-class education programmes, mentorship with C-level executives and partnerships with more than 60 international corporate partners, among which some of the largest VCs operating in Europe.

The City recognises innovation as a crosswise driver of development of local management, extending its transformative power to all areas of public action. Inspired by the work conducted in the entrepreneurial sphere, the city has launched pioneer projects in mobility, culture, social justice and public engagement.

Some of the most relevant projects:

Unicorn Factory Lisbon: A driving force for entrepreneurship

From start-ups to scale-ups, and eventually unicorns, the Factory works as an engine for economic growth and as a driving force for innovation, attracting talent, new projects and investment. Unicorn Factory Lisbon is a platform of programmes and hubs, inspired by international best practices, which supports start-ups and scale-ups in creating products and business models, developing efficient processes, and achieving sustained accelerated growth.

Open Innovation: mobilising collective knowledge

Smart Open Lisbon is an open innovation programme promoted by the City. Urban challenges in the fields of Mobility, Housing, Healthcare, Environmental Sustainability and Energy Transition have been subject to a collective effort to find innovative solutions. New ideas are tested using real data in a real scenario, while working with potential customers and partners.

Sustainability: reaching carbon neutrality by 2030

As Lisbon is among the 100 cities chosen by the EU Commission to become carbon neutral by 2030, the City has established pioneer initiatives to accelerate the transition. Lisbon Sustainable Companies Platform gathers companies and organisations with strong commitment towards cutting down CO2 emissions. Of the 269 companies and organisations that joined the platform, 223 proposals have been submitted in the thematic areas of Energy, 224 in Citizenship and Participation, 207 in Circular Economy and 168 in Water.

A Theater for every Parish: culture to the people

The City launched a project aiming at providing citizens with the tools to develop their artistic projects. The core idea is that citizens should not be retrained to a mere audience role and that the cultural scene of the city should be led by the people. As such, new spaces have been developed in every neighbourhood. Residents can use rooms and equipment to rehearse and showcase projects either in theatre, music, cinema, painting or any other form of art.

The Lisbon Citizens' Council: when citizens work hand in hand with public servants

The Citizen’s Council is the first locally organised citizen assembly launched by a local government in Portugal. 50 randomly selected participants gather to discuss with the City the most relevant urban challenges: climate change, mobility, education or access to healthcare. Citizens select spokespeople who work with public servants to implement concrete proposals. Cooling the City Program is one of the several implemented proposals. It aims to transform urban squares into green and cooler areas by planting trees and prevent heat waves.

SAÚDE 65+: providing access to healthcare for the elderly

In Portugal, around 15% of the population has no access to a family doctor provided by the national healthcare system. As many of these citizens are 65+ year old, the City has launched an innovative concept to create a “local welfare state”, providing free services that were not under the umbrella of local power such as access to doctor appointments and medical treatment, including optical and dental care.

Free public transportation: revolutionising mobility

To incentivise young people to use public transportation – reducing CO2 emissions – the City has issued free public transportation passes for students who live and study in Lisbon. This measure was extended to aged 65+, thus helping people move freely across the city and fighting isolation.