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European Innovation Council

Third place Vilnius (Lithaunia)

The European Capital of Innovation category: third place Vilnius (Lithaunia)

Highly driven by experimentation, flexibility and openness, Vilnius is proving that its long-term VILNIUS 2IN innovation strategy can enable the city’s entire ecosystem to foster change and develop innovative solutions to maximise consumer returns. Making residents happy is one of the city’s official performance indicators. 

To achieve this goal, Lithuania’s capital relies on several key principles: it runs as a city-wide lab where failing and trying is acceptable and encouraged; applies a bottom-up approach to every initiative taken; and wherever possible, focuses on opening its data resources to the public.

In the past year, Vilnius has developed three separate data policies – Internet of Things, Data and Open Data – paving the way for the emergence of many ground-breaking ideas and projects. A great example is the Hack Me If You Can initiative, which voluntarily invited hackers to identify loopholes in city-managed IT systems (under the condition they register first), which ultimately prevented the city from experiencing major cyber security breaches.

Using open data, Vilnius has started implementing an ambitious plan to create and operate three comprehensive maps of the city, covering the capital’s underground, city level and air space. This digitalisation exercise allows real estate developers to make informed decisions and helps accelerate businesses growth and improve overall quality of life for residents.

As a drone-friendly city, Vilnius aims to make the most of this technology. Since 2020, the city has been managing its air space and has mapped special air-routes, established an operational centre and developed other relevant infrastructure, enabling the ethical exploitation of drone technology at full-scale for things like medical services for city residents and elderly care. Drones have already been used to observe public spaces and carry lightweight items during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vilnius has demonstrated significant resilience and creativity amid this global crisis. It ran the Gediminas Legion, a volunteer project recognised as an exceptional example of leadership by the national parliament, and allowed cafes and bars to use its outdoor spaces so they could have enough room to comply with distancing measures and bring a sense of normalcy to residents.

This close cooperation between businesses, national and local governmental bodies, academia and civil society is a key to the city’s innovative development. Vilnius is home to an ever-growing number of high-tech international companies and scientific institutions, especially in the fields of fintech, life sciences, lasers and ICT. The city focuses on clustering in these priority areas and invests in physical infrastructure for sectors to thrive. The Intelligent Energy Lab, an open platform connecting 57 sustainable energy ecosystem entities, is a promising example of the city’s efforts to foster inclusion and collaboration.

With a view to the future, Vilnius placed IT among compulsory A-level subjects in schools for students from grades 5 to 12, granting it the highest importance in the educational system. Named IT MUST, this pilot project aims to familiarise children with at least one IT language (Hacking; Robotics and Programming; E-sports; Media and Design). Lithuania’s capital considers this to be of a key factor in strengthening its culture of innovation.