Despite being the most sparsely populated region of Europe, the urban areas of northern Sweden share the same challenges and possibilities as the major metropolitan areas. In 2018 the region received a confirmation of the ability to foster innovative and creative environments, when the city of Umeå earned a second place in Innovation capital of Europe, shared with 6 other finalist and only exceeded by the winner Athens.
The purpose of the competition, iCapital, is to give notice to the European city who has successfully experimented with solutions for new and innovative environments. In their motivation the jury stated that Umeå has become a leader in Urban innovation. It has done so by harbouring great ambitions for its citizens whilst remaining truthful to its values of community. These values include creativity, inclusiveness, and gender equality, and are essential in the city's policy making.
The award has the purpose of letting cities showcase their contribution to developing local innovation ecosystems, for the benefit of businesses and of citizens. Umeå receives this merit for hosting world-class universities which are testing new methods of engaging citizens in inclusive design. An example of its innovativeness is when the local government asked the citizens to paintball buildings as a way of expressing their preferences during a renovation.
Umeå is the first Swedish city to have gotten as far as to being a finalist in the iCapital competition. Umeå city attributes their placement to their long-term focus on equality-thinking, in combination with an excellent innovation system and a close partnership with the universities. For Umeå, it's important to be able to compare and measure efforts within innovation - the award is an indicator that these efforts have been successful. On a national level, the fact that Umeå came second in the iCapital competition is a sign of Umeå being recognized internationally for their innovation, science and method development.
UID19, Design Talks and Degree Show 2019
As a runner up in the iCapital competition, Umeå was rewarded 100 000 euro that will be spent on developing the city’s creativity and abilities in design. Within that context, a part of the award money support the event UID19 in June 2019. UID19, or "Design Talks and Degree Show 2019" has the purpose of spreading knowledge about, and engaging more citizens, in the city's innovation and design projects. The event will include student and company presentations, keynotes delivered by leading designers, a design exhibition as well as networking opportunities. Representatives from some of the worlds biggest and most influential companies travel to Umeå and UID to find inspiration, to follow up or establish collaborations and to recruit young designers.