Unemployment, energy efficiency and obesity are the top concerns targeted by some 155 European cities, including Limassol.
They are competing to out-innovate each other in a lucrative contest launched by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, his foundation announced yesterday.
Municipalities from London to high-tech-friendly Oulu, in northern Finland, to the picturesque old port of Chania, on the Greek island of Crete, applied for the first-time European contest by a January 31 deadline, Bloomberg Philanthropies said.
The cities span 28 countries and include 19 capitals, from Dublin, Ireland, to Ankara, Turkey.
"These dynamic city leaders are working to find new ways to tackle some of our most pressing and common urban challenges," Bloomberg said in a statement.
Twenty finalists will be announced in mid-April. A €5 million grand prize and four €1m awards will be bestowed in autumn.
The cities were asked for ideas that solve major social or economic problems or make government more effective. Some 12% focused on tackling unemployment and workforce development, 9% on energy issues, 7% on obesity and the food supply, and 5% each on ageing and fostering social inclusion.
To some extent, the topics show concerns varying by region. Almost a quarter of the applications from Eastern Europe concerned government transparency and democracy, for instance, while the biggest chunk of submissions from western Europe — about 15% — centred on energy efficiency, said James Anderson, who oversees Bloomberg Philanthropies' government innovation work.
While a similar Bloomberg Philanthropies contest in the US last year drew more than 300 entrants, the foundation noted that 26% of eligible European cities applied, compared with 24% in the US, and Bloomberg said the response "exceeded even our own high expectations."
The European contest was open to cities of 100,000 or more residents in 40 countries. Some applicants are as big as London (population about 8.2 million), others as comparatively small as Limassol (population 101,000).
During 12 years in office that ended on December 31, billionaire-entrepreneur-turned-politician Bloomberg championed the idea of cities as trailblazers for new approaches to government, through both his political office and his personal charity