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European Innovation Council
News article2 September 20212 min read

European Capital of Innovation Awards (iCapital) 2021: discover this year’s semi-finalists!


16 cities from ten countries are in the semi-final stage of the seventh iCapital edition to become the 2021 European Capital of Innovation and the first ever European Rising Innovative City.

Supported by the European Innovation Council under Horizon Europe, the prize recognises the European cities for their most innovative city practices in the framework of a developed, multi-faceted, well-functioning city innovation ecosystem that boosts game-changing innovation.

The 2021 semi-finalists selected by a high-level jury of independent experts are (in alphabetical order):

The European Capital of Innovation category

  • Ankara (Türkiye)
  • Bruxelles (Belgium)
  • Dublin (Ireland)
  • Dortmund (Germany)
  • Istanbul (Türkiye)
  • Izmir (Türkiye)
  • Malaga (Spain)
  • Vilnius (Lithuania)

The European Rising Innovative city category

  • Braga (Portugal)
  • Cascais (Portugal)
  • Castellón de la Plana (Spain)
  • Haarlem (Netherlands)
  • Leeuwarden (Netherlands)
  • Ludwigsburg (Germany)
  • Trondheim (Norway)
  • Vantaa (Finland)


Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:

“It is inspiring to see many European cities placing innovation at the core of their recovery and growth strategies, after such a challenging period of time. I look forward to rewarding the best examples of how cities shape the local innovation ecosystems to help Europe capitalise on its scientific excellence, collective intelligence and creativity.”

What happens next?

Each city will be invited to a private hearing with the jury members held remotely in October 2021.  The hearings follow strict rules that allow each city to present the submitted application and answer to potential jury questions related to the award criteria.

The jury members will then select three finalists in both categories.  One winner and two runners-up per category will be announced at the European Innovation Council Summit on 24-25 November 2021.

Apart from the prestigious recognition, the European Capital of Innovation category winner will receive a prize of €1,000,000, while the two runners-up of this category will get €100,000 each.

Moreover, the winner of the European Rising Innovative City category will be awarded €500,000 with two runner-up cities receiving €50,000 each.

All semi-finalists will be invited to join a group of pioneering cities that actively push boundaries of urban innovation.



Supported by the European Innovation Council under Horizon Europe, the seventh edition of the European Capital of Innovation Awards closed on Thursday 15 July. The call received 39 applications from across European Union and Horizon Europe Associated Countries.

Every year, the European Union recognises cities with inclusive innovation ecosystems by awarding the recognition prize European Capital of Innovation Awards (iCapital). The awards identify urban ecosystems that connect citizens, the public sector, academia, and business, and successfully translate their results into improved wellbeing of their citizens, while boosting game-changing innovation.

iCapital is one of the four EIC Prizes granted under Horizon Europe, the EU's research and innovation framework programme.

The prize first took place in 2014. Past winners include Barcelona (2014), Amsterdam (2016), Paris (2017), Athens (2018), Nantes (2019) and Leuven (2020).

Apart from the main category, the European Capital of Innovation (cities with more than 250.000 inhabitants), this year includes a new category The European Rising Innovative City that targets towns and cities with a population of more than 50.000 and up to 249.999 inhabitants.

The prize is managed by the European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency, and the winners are chosen following an assessment performed by a high-level independent expert jury.


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Publication date
2 September 2021