Opening up innovation opportunities

The launch in 2012 of the GeniUS community inovation scheme in St Sampsons Square by Kersten England, left, James Alexander, CYC Sustainability Officer Noel Collings as Archimedes and Susan McColl from Science City York.

The launch in 2012 of the GeniUS community inovation scheme in St Sampsons Square by Kersten England, left, James Alexander, CYC Sustainability Officer Noel Collings as Archimedes and Susan McColl from Science City York.

First published in Business news
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York Press: Photograph of the Author by , Business editor

AS York prepares for the final stages of a European competition celebrating innovative solutions to urban challenges business editor Laura Knowlson looks at how the city won a place on the shortlist.

York has joined 20 other major European cities including Barcelona, Amsterdam and Athens as a finalist in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge.

It is now in with a chance of winning part of a prize fund of nine million euros, including a five million euro grand prize for the most creative and transferable idea.

York’s entry has been put forward by Innovate York, a scheme run by SCY, formerly Science City York, and City of York Council to promote innovation in the city.

The entry proposal comes from Innovate York's GeniUS scheme, which was created to in a bid to solve some of the city's problems by turning to residents, businesses, organisations, charities, students, and public services for solutions.

People are invited to get involved through online ideas generation and development that anyone can contribute to.

The best ideas put forward online are then developed through workshops with the aim of taking them forward as pilot schemes.

The council has committed to taking the best ideas forward for the city, with support from NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) and its Creative Councils Programme, and is one of the first local authorities in the country to use ‘open innovation’ methods to tackle some of the problems facing local communities.

In 2012 York's GeniUS scheme won worldwide acclaim at a global innovation summit held in May .

The scheme beat off stiff international competition from a long list of 92 initiatives to claim the Living Labs Global Award in the ‘Open Government for Business Innovation’ category.

Winning the award meant the GeniUS York team got the opportunity to export the benefits of the scheme to other cities around the world, with the first stop, Cape Town in South Africa where the team worked alongside city heads in the Western Cape’s provincial city to develop its own version of the scheme.

Heather Niven, innovation lead at SCY, said: "We are try to accelerate innovation in the city. GeniUS York tries to crack some of the different city challenges by working with residents, businesses and the city together.

"We open the process up for people to come to us with solutions. The good ideas are put forward in a pilot process, which enables us to see the potential of how successful it could be, and if that works we look at putting together a business plan.

"Often these new technologies and innovations can save money and lives, can increase the length of time we remain in our homes when we are older, can make ‘living well’ an easy and hassle free thing to do.

"The overall concept of GeniUS is to ‘short circuit’ the way a city traditionally slowly progresses, by ‘fast-tracking’ great ideas and new innovations here in York."

Ian Graham, Innovation Lead at City of York Council added: "The Mayor's Challenge is a really opportunity to build on everything we have done over the last few years, and take everything to the next level.

"It's great to pull all these different projects together and make a real big difference to how we operate as a city."

The next stage of the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge will see the InnovateYork team along with the other finalists attend Bloomberg Ideas Camp, a two-day conference which is set to take place in Berlin in June.

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