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European Cities Register for Bloomberg's Innovation...

European Cities Register for Bloomberg's Innovation Competition
European cities eye a Bloomberg contest

More than 180 ciudades, villes and other cities have expressed interest so far in vying for big cash prizes in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's first innovation contest for European cities, his foundation said, with two months left to sign up.

Such capital cities as London and Ankara, Turkey, and smaller cities from Tampere, Finland, to Ancona, Italy, have registered for the competition. It seeks ideas to increase efficiency or make government more approachable for citizens. Bloomberg called the response "extremely enthusiastic."

"The need for public sector innovation has never been greater, and we're excited to see so many European leaders join this competition," the billionaire businessman-turned-politician said in a statement Wednesday.

The contest offers a total of 9 million euros - about $12 million - to try out novel concepts, an unusual influx of early-stage money for government innovation, Bloomberg Philanthropies says. A 5 million euro grand prize and four 1 million euro awards will be announced next fall.

The competition is open to cities with 100,000 or more residents in 40 countries. About 600 municipalities are eligible to apply by Jan. 31. By late Tuesday, 182 had registered, though full-fledged applications are yet to come.

So far, the interested cities span 29 countries and have a total of 82 million residents, the foundation said.

A similar Bloomberg Philanthropies contest in the U.S. last year drew more than 300 entrants, from 1,300 eligible cities.

During 12 years in office, Bloomberg has cast cities - and New York in particular - as government's groundbreakers.

He's borrowed such ideas as bicycle-sharing from other cities while urging other cities and levels of government to adopt such New York novelties as banishing artery-clogging trans fats from restaurant food.

 Bloomberg leaves office at the end of the month and has said he'll focus on his foundation. It gave away a total of $370 million last year to support environmental, education, health, arts and government innovation projects.