In recognition of its inspiring originality and advanced green initiatives, the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) member city of Castellón de la Plana has been announced as a semi-finalist of the European Capital of Innovation Awards (iCapital).  

The city is nominated under a new category titled ‘European Rising Innovative City’ which allows cities with populations between 50 000 and 249 999 people to be recognised for their contributions to developing multi-faceted and well-functioning innovation ecosystems.  

With a population of just over 170 000, Castellón de la Plana is the economic and social centre of the Castellón province in the Valenican Community of Spain. The city’s strong focus on the systemic change of building organisation, energy networks and transport made it stand out from other applicants. The involvement of both citizens and stakeholders in the city’s efforts was recognised as embodying iCapital’s mission to honour urban ecosystems that connect different groups like these. 

The next step in the application process is for the city to attend a virtual private hearing in October with a jury of independent experts. The city will advocate as to why it is deserving of the iCapital award and will explain how it has met the five conditions for innovation outlined in the initial application.  

  • First, there must be a focus on experimenting, which means the city is committed to trialling innovative practices and mainstreaming these practices when the time comes.   

  • A focus must also be on escalating, or accelerating growth and driving innovation, and on ecosystem building, which consists of fostering collaboration among different ecosystem players. 

  • Other criterion relates to the focus on expanding through promoting knowledge transfer and enhancing cooperation between different types of cities. 

  • Finally, an innovative city vision that proves there is a long-term strategic plan for a strong, sustainable ecosystem is required. 

After city representatives answer any questions or clarifications from jury members during the hearing, they will await the announcement of the three finalists. One winner will be announced at the European Innovation Council Summit on 24-25 November 2021 and will receive a EUR 500 000 prize.  Two runners-up will receive EUR 50 000 each. One winner and two runners-up will also be announced for the European Capital of Innovation category with winnings of EUR 1 000 000 and EUR 100 000 respectively. 

Regardless of whether Castellón de la Plana advances to the next round, the city will be invited to join forces with other semi-finalists to create a group of pioneering cities that will continue to actively push the boundaries of urban innovation together. The city is sure to continue to be a standout as it advocates for nature-based solutions and idea-sharing among different perspectives. We hope to see the city advocate its experience with the ICC to inspire other cities and lead the way with collaborative work. Good luck to Castellón de la Plana and all nominees!