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Amsterdam is the 2016 European Capital of Innovation

Amsterdam now has even more confirmation that it’s Europe’s center for smart governance … as if it needed it.

The European Commission just awarded Amsterdam the title of “European Capital of Innovation 2016” for its “holistic vision of innovation related to four areas of urban life: governance, economics, social inclusion, and quality of life.” Amsterdam – both a tourist city and a global business center – is favorite expat destination. A coincidence? We think not.

i-capital-posterAmsterdam got the nod from a panel of independent experts, beating out eight other European cities including nearby Eindhoven and – surprisingly – Berlin, which just inked a $500 million deal with San Jose-based systems giant Cisco to integrate digitally city services.

Amsterdam receives a grand prize of 950,000 euros for scaling up and expanding innovation efforts. (Maybe it could provide free Wifi in the center city ala Eindhoven.) Turin and Paris are runners-up, winning second and third prizes of 100,000 euros and 50,000 euros respectively.

We know what you’re thinking … with 1.1 million euros in prize money, the Capital of Innovation Award is kind of small beer. But it’s not. The award does go to cities that are working hard to be smart, organized, digitized and efficient. And those qualities define the Netherlands and help to explain why it’s neck-and-neck with Germany and the Scandinavian countries in the race to a digital future. And to be fair, the Capital of Innovation award total has nearly doubled since Barcelona was awarded 500,000 euros in 2014.

Also, if you’re working in Amsterdam’s economic-development effort, this is an award worth redoing all your marketing collateral to tout, because global corporations want to be located in cities on the bleeding edge of technological change.

The winner and the finalists were selected on the basis of new initiatives the cities have launched since January 1, 2012 and on their plans for developing innovation capacity in the future.

From the EU website announcing Amsterdam’s award:

Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions, said: “This Award is all about speeding up change: we must encourage cities and regions to tackle burning societal challenges by jumping on the innovation train and spreading bottom-up experiences. I am proud to see that 12 European Committee of the Regions’ members represent these nine finalists. We need pioneering cities and regions like the winner, Amsterdam, to lead the way.”

Here’s the full list of nominees:

  • Eindhoven (NL) – for combining digital technology with creativity in its world-leading urban smart lighting strategy
  • Glasgow (UK) – for its replicable innovation model based on partnerships across industry, science and communities
  • Milano (IT) – for enhancing social inclusion and alternative models in the delivery of public services to create more opportunities for employment
  • Oxford (UK) – for its vision to openly share the wealth of knowledge within its world-class innovation ecosystem
  • Paris (FR) – for its strategy based on open innovation, connectivity and ingenuity aiming at becoming a world hub for start-up
  • Torino (IT) – for its open innovation models supporting social innovation start-ups and creating new market opportunities for urban innovations
  • Vienna (AT) – for its innovation and ICT strategies based on a citizen-centred approach and long-term developments in economy, education, research and technology




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