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The 2016 European Capital of Innovation winner has been announced

Matthew Kaye, Consultant writes

On Friday 8 April, Amsterdam were crowned the 2016 European Capital of Innovation in Brussels at an award ceremony in Brussels. Amsterdam was chosen ahead of eight other shortlisted finalists, claiming €950,000 to scale up and expand its innovation activities. The award looks for the European city that is building the best “innovation ecosystem” – connecting citizens, public organisations, academia and business, demonstrating that it is “a place to bring ideas to life”. This was the second iteration of the Capital of Innovation, with Barcelona the first winners in 2014 for its use of technology for the benefit of its residents.


Oxford was one of the nine finalists shortlisted “for its vision to openly share the wealth of knowledge within its world-class innovation ecosystem”. With 35 other applicants going for the prize, Oxford managed to beat dozens of other cities to be on the shortlist, a recognition that it is clearly a city where ideas come to life. Over the centuries, it has built a world-class innovation community that thrives on the introduction and adoption of new ideas through its fantastic universities and businesses.

Shared Intelligence was proud to have worked with Oxford to prepare their original submission to the European Commission (EC). We supported the City Council’s application by conducting primary and secondary research, including talking to key business, education and political figures. We also worked with Oxford to ensure that its submission captured the wealth of innovative activity in the city and met the “5 i’s” criteria: innovative; inspiring; integrated; interactive; and impactful. This culminated in a powerful pitch with Oxford proposing the scaling up of activity in five areas:

1. Growing its innovation spaces;

2. Extending access to social enterprise;

3. Inspiring the next generation of science and technology talent;

4. Mainstreaming ultra-low carbon technology;

5. Pioneering smart city solutions.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be Oxford’s year. Amsterdam was given the title for its holistic vision of innovation related to four areas of urban life: governance, economics, social inclusion and quality of life. Torino and Paris were selected as runners-up, winning second and third-place prizes of €100,000 and €50,000 respectively.

For more details on Oxford’s submission for the competition, see http://oxfordicapital16.com/

Lessons for other cities

Although the submissions of finalists are not in the public domain, the EC’s description of why cities were shortlisted offers clues as to what they are particularly interested in. Social innovation was a consistent theme amongst finalists. Whilst technological innovation within the field of scientific research is no less impressive, the EC seems to put a premium on strategies, concepts and ideas that extend and strengthen civil society. The point about extending civil society links into another consistent theme; openness. Barcelona won in 2014 because it used innovation to improve economic growth and the welfare of its citizens. One measure was open data initiatives, offering valuable information to individuals and private companies.

In short, putting social innovation and inclusion front and centre appears to be the key to capturing the EC’s imagination. This needs to captured in a compelling pitch to the EC, which Si supported Oxford with.

Other EU competitions

There are a number of other European “Capital” competitions, including: European Capital of Culture; European Capital of Sport; European Green Capital; European City of Science; and European Youth Capital. If you’d like support from Si in preparing a submission for any of these competitions please do get in touch with me at matthew.kaye@sharedintelligence.net or call 020 7756 7600.

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