The awards allow the EU executive to shine the spotlight on a particular aspect of innovation, with a different set of priorities being highlighted each year.
In 2010, the focus was on a number of key issues, such as the integration of migrants in urban areas and broadband coverage in less-developed regions.
Presented by EU Regional Policy Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Polish centre-right MEP Jan Olbrycht (European People's Party), who was chairman of the jury, there were two winners of the 'CityStar' awards, three ICT (information and communication technologies) winners and one for information and communication.
The CityStar winners were the C-Mine Centre in Belgium, a former industrial site turned entrepreneur and visitor hub, and the Micro-Finance Institute in Sweden, a project aimed at helping migrant women get access to finance for business ventures.
ICT awards were given to the Langas j Ateitj alliance in Lithuania, which provides training courses to improve computer literacy skills, the French region of Auvergne for its high-speed broadband coverage, and a telemedicine project in Germany designed to reduce hospital admissions.
The telemedicine project, in the Brandenburg region, uses expertise from various regional partners to monitor and treat people – outside of a traditional medical environment – who have suffered from a heart attack. More then 100 patients have benefitted so far.
The information and communication award went to a Lithuanian website, www.esparama.lt, which provides clear and easily-accessible information on all EU structural funding in the country.
Are the awards succeeding in their aims?
While the awards provide a media-friendly ''big day out'' in Brussels, some questioned whether they are succeeding in their aim to ''improve information about good practice'' and ''stimulate the exchange of experience''.
Speaking to EurActiv, a Commission official argued that the increasing number of applicants every year showed the awards are doing what they should.
''As the main goal is transparency and sharing information, the fact that they are increasingly popular is a good sign,'' the official said. ''It has also generated coverage of both the finalists and winners, opening them to public examination and allowing contacts between different practitioners. The Commission has also been able to mobilise the projects identified to participate in different conferences and inform policy debate.''
They are also good value for money, the official stressed – explaining that the nominated projects have already been financed on their merits by EU regional funding tools.
Furthermore, the awards do not involve a cash prize. ''A modest budget of approximately €30,000 is needed to cover the jury's travel expenses and time, the trophies and making the 3-5 minute project videos. This is funded by the Commission under its communication budget,'' they concluded.
However, the think-tank Open Europe, a long-standing critic of EU regional policy, was less enthusiastic about the value of the RegioStars awards.
''While more effective targeting of cohesion funds certainly should be encouraged, you would think that the EU had bigger things on its plate at the moment than engaging in self-congratulatory ceremonies at the taxpayers' expense,'' said its director, Mats Persson.