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European Innovation Council
The European Capital of Innovation Awards

An annual recognition prize awarded to the European cities that best promote innovation in their communities


Cities are the natural playground for innovation, giving space to reflect, propose, test new ideas and products, and thus improve the quality of their inhabitants’ lives. They can be catalysts of flourishing innovation ecosystems not only within a given city but also in the surrounding regions and across Europe.  

In Europe, it is estimated that by 2050 almost 85% of Europeans will be living in cities. The capacity of cities to absorb this increasing demand of services and consumption of resources will be key to ensure their sustainability and resilience.  

The European Capital of Innovation Awards (iCapital) was established in 2014 to reward those European cities that are courageous enough to open their governance practices to experimentation, to boost innovation, to be a role model for other cities, and to push the boundaries of technology for the benefit of their citizens.  

In addition to the monetary reward, the prize brings high visibility in the form of renewed public interest and increased media coverage.  

Past winners include Barcelona (2014), Amsterdam (2016), Paris (2017), Athens (2018), Nantes (2019), Leuven (2020), Dortmund (2021), Vantaa (2021), Aix-Marseille Provence Metropole (2022) and Haarlem (2022). 


In 2023, the European Capital of Innovation Awards features two categories:

  • The European Capital of Innovation category that addresses cities with a population of minimum 250 000 inhabitants and rewards the winner with EUR 1 000 000 and two runners-up with EUR 100 000 each.
  • The European Rising Innovative City category that targets towns and cities with a population of 50 000 and up to 249 999 inhabitants and rewards the winner with EUR 500 000 and two runners-up with EUR 50 000 each.

Funding opportunities

You can apply until 29 June 2023, 17:00 CET.

You can consult the EIC Work Programme 2023 featuring the full iCapital Awards call text.

The European Capital of Innovation

The European Rising Innovative City

Who should apply

Any city can apply to only one of the two categories as long as it:

  • has at least 50 000 inhabitants (please see further details and exceptions in the Rules of contest)
  • is located in an EU Member State or an Associated Country to Horizon European Commission

Eligibility criteria

  1. The candidate cities must be located in one of the Member States or Horizon Europe Associated Countries.
  2. For the category of European Capital of Innovation, the candidate city must have a minimum population of 250 000 inhabitants. In countries where there are no such cities, the city coming closest to 250 000 inhabitants is eligible to apply for the European Capital of Innovation category, provided that it has a minimum population of 50 000 inhabitants and that the city did not apply for the European Rising Innovative City category.
  3. The candidate cities for the European Rising Innovative City category must have a population of 50 000 and up to 249 999 inhabitants.
  4. Winners of former European Capital of Innovation Awards editions, as well as runners-up of both 2022 edition categories are not eligible. This does not apply to previous finalist cities.
  5. Applicants that have already received an EU or Euratom prize cannot receive a second prize for the same activities.

Award criteria

  1. Experimenting – innovative concepts, processes, tools, and governance models proving the city's commitment to act as a test-bed for innovative practices, while ensuring the mainstreaming of these practices into the ordinary urban development process.
  2. Escalating – accelerating the growth of highly innovative start-ups and SMEs by establishing an innovation friendly legal framework, creating an environment that stimulates growth, private and public investments, resources, diversity and talents; and driving innovation demand through efficient innovation public procurement.
  3. Ecosystem building – unlocking cities potential as local innovation ecosystem facilitators by fostering synergies among different innovation ecosystem players, from public, industry, start-ups, civil society, the general public to academia, to contribute to the development of an innovation ecosystem within the city.
  4. Expanding – acting as a role model for other cities by supporting the dissemination and replication of tested solutions that boost the local innovation ecosystem; by promoting mutual learning, knowledge transfer and capacity building; and by enhancing cooperation and synergies between cities that are front-runners in driving the local innovation ecosystem, and those that are still exploring and testing their role as innovation enablers.
  5. City innovative vision – applicants should demonstrate their long-term strategic vision/plan, highlighting the innovative initiatives that have positively contributed to the transformation of the city and which will further support the development of a sustainable and resilient innovation ecosystem ensuring the green and digital transition.

How to apply

Please consult the following documents before submitting your application through the links above.


  1. 8 March 2023
    Call opening
  2. 29 June 2023 – 17:00:00 CET
    Deadline for submission
  3. July - October 2023
  4. Q4 2023
    Information on evaluation results & award

Guidelines for applicants

On 28 March 2023, the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA) organised an informative webinar to learn more about the The European Capital of Innovation Awards (iCapital). The PPT of the event and the recording are available here below

28 MARCH 2023
PPT - iCapital Info Session - 28 March 2023
(10.55 MB - PDF)
21 APRIL 2023
Factsheet - iCapital 2023
(755.96 KB - PDF)


Previous editions

Check the full details of the previous editions:

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European Capital of Innovation Awards
European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency
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