(Picture: Anna Amati, META Vice-President, awarding the prize to Marzia Cilloccu, Councillor for Productive Activities and Tourism of Cagliari).
Cities Challenge 2016 Italy was the first competition to reward the entrepreneurial capacity of a city and its ecosystem, and points the way forward to larger initiatives in the future.
Organized in collaboration with StartupItalia!, Tree, Italia Startup, Iban and StartupSuperschool, it focused specifically on encouraging midsized cities (50,000-250,000 inhabitants) to create an innovation-friendly environment to generate new business ideas, improve on existing ones, and attract people and capital.
META is currently evaluating this first, pilot edition with a view to expanding it in the future. But how did it work?
Five Phase Competition
1. Nominations from citizens and mayors
Participation in the Cities Challenge Italy was free, and open to all Italian municipalities with 50,000-250,000 inhabitants. While local citizens could nominate their cities via the Cities Challenge Italy website by January 2nd 2017, the mayor of each proposed city had to make an official nomination by the final deadline (January 23rd).
This nomination phase thus got as many people as possible involved, connecting citizens with City Hall in a bottom-up process to improve their city's innovation ecosystem.
2. Identifying the Finalists
The applications were then evaluated by an expert Jury.
META assembled a diverse Jury to represent the Italian innovation ecosystem, with industry experts attending from Invitalia, Cisco, Italia Startup, Tree, Startup Italia, TIM, Cisco, ANCI (the national association of Italian municipalities), Startup Super School and Comune di Roma.
The eight finalists were then published on the website, allowing public voting to begin.
3. Public Voting
Throughout February 2017, all Italian citizens were given the opportunity to vote for one of the 8 finalists via the official Cities Challenge website, Twitter and Facebook. Over 2500 votes were cast.
4. Pitching event
The pitching event was held on March 2nd, in Rome, where the 8 finalists presented their cities via an 8 minute pitch to the same Jury.
META used an algorithm to combine the number of public votes with the views of the jury.
As a result, the city of Cagliari, which won the public vote by a landslide, also grabbed first prize, followed by Reggio Emilia and Lecce in second and third place.
Cagliari's prize: 10 strategic meetings, a startup contest for young innovative entrepreneurs living in the city, and a training course for innovative SMEs.
The highlight, however, is to travel to Johannesburg to be presented at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress during an award ceremony. This was sponsored by the KAUFFMAN FOUNDATION, one of META's long-term META Academy partners and with whom META organised GEC 2015 in Milan:
What's next for Cities Challenges?
Cities Challenge 2016 Italy was run in the spirit of a Minimum Viable Product - a pilot, designed to explore how a competition like this could help midsized cities stand out from the crowd and become more startup-friendly.
Given than it was launched from a 'standing start' with no pre-existing base, the exercise was highly successful, demonstrating a real unmet need among cities of this size. META is therefore planning on turning the exercise into an annual event to pursue our goal of promoting and fostering entrepreneurship across Europe and beyond.