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European Innovation Council
iCapital Awards 2023 winners
The European Capital of Innovation Awards

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

2024 edition

On 5 March, the European Commission officially launched the tenth edition of the European Capital of Innovation Awards (iCapital) in a ceremony in Linköping (Sweden), the European Rising Innovative city 2023. Check the launch event of iCapital Awards 2024 at Linköping Science Park.


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.  

An increasing number of cities are acting as test beds for innovation and run people-driven initiatives to find solutions to societal challenges, such as climate change, digitalisation, sustainable growth, or social cohesion. Cities innovate for a better future, reinforcing democracy and citizens’ rights. 

In 2024, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of the European Capital of Innovation Awards (iCapital).  The competition rewards those European cities that are courageous enough to open their governance practices to experimentation and 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. Moreover, all winners and runners up will be invited to join the iCapital alumni network. This is a prestigious club where they all meet to share their knowledge, discuss common challenges, and work together to find solutions.  

Past winners are Barcelona (2014), Amsterdam (2016), Paris (2017), Athens (2018), Nantes (2019), Leuven (2020), Dortmund (2021), and Aix-Marseille Provence Metropole (2022), and Lisbon (2023) as European Capitals of Innovation.  

Past winners in the Rising Innovative city category are Vantaa (2021), Haarlem (2022), and Linkoping (2023).  


In 2024, the European Capital of Innovation Awards features two categories:

  • The European Capital of Innovation category for 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

The applications are open. The deadline for submission is 18 June 2024, 17:00 CET.

You can consult the EIC Work Programme 2024 featuring the full iCapital Awards call text.

EIC banner purple
The European Capital of Innovation
EIC banner purple
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 2023 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 – promoting the acceleration of the different actors of the local innovation ecosystem, supporting growth of highly innovative start-ups and SMEs, establishing innovation friendly legal framework, creating an environment that stimulates growth and attracts 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, startups, civil society, citizens 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 transitions. 

6. Citizens’ rights – the use of innovation to strengthen democracy, to protect citizens' rights, to foster social cohesion, and ensure integration with a special view on minorities, gender, disability, or race. 

How to apply

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


  1. 5 March 2024
    Call opening
  2. 18 June 2024 – 17:00:00 CET
    Deadline for submission
  3. June - October 2024
  4. November – December 2024
    Information on evaluation results/award

Guidelines for applicants

On 9 April 2024, the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency (EISMEA) organised an informative webinar to learn more about the European Capital of Innovation Awards (iCapital). 

You will find the recording of the info session here below. The slides are available via this link.

Do you need some inspiration for applying? 

Find out more about Lisbon’s winning application. Full document is available here.

Find out more about Linköping’s winning application. Full document is available here.

iCaptal Alumni Network

The EIC Prizes Alumni network is one of the working groups of the European Innovation Council Forum. It is a dedicated space and network for the winners and finalists of the European Capital of Innovation Awards to interact, cooperate, exchange knowledge, and share policy insights to boost innovation across the European Union.

This series of factsheets has been created by the member cities of the  iCapital Alumni network, with the purpose of sharing their knowledge. They include the cities’ challenges, their recommendations and best practices.

3 OCTOBER 2023
1. Defining the innovation ecosystem
3 OCTOBER 2023
2. Mapping the innovation ecosystem
3 OCTOBER 2023
3. Innovation stakeholder engagement
3 OCTOBER 2023
4. Prioritising innovation trends
3 OCTOBER 2023
5. Governance and internal organisation
3 OCTOBER 2023
6. Digitalisation of services
3 OCTOBER 2023
7. Innovation experimentation

Previous editions

Check the full details of the previous editions:

Contact us

European Capital of Innovation Awards

For more information, please contact us at EISMEA-ICAPITALatec [dot] europa [dot] eu (EISMEA-ICAPITAL[at]ec[dot]europa[dot]eu).

For updates, you can consult this webpage, and follow us on Twitter @EUeic with the hashtag #iCapitalAwards or subscribe to our newsletter

European Capital of Innovation Awards
European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency
EISMEA-ICAPITALatec [dot] europa [dot] eu
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