For the past four days, Leuven has shown the world what the city of the future will look like. The very first edition of and& summit & festival brought over 200 (inter)national speakers and artists to Leuven with more than 18.000 attendees in their wake. With multiple ticket formulas sold out, and& can look back on a highly successful first edition.
For four days and nights, and& explored the effect of health, high-tech and creativity on future city life. The festival & summit kicked off on Wendesday with a scoop as the first self driving car made its way across Belgian pavement for the very first time. It was the start of a highly successful first edition.
Over one hundred (inter)national speakers were eager to give their vision on topics such as AI, food innovation or smart cities. Headliners included Daan Roosegaarde, Hiroshi Ishiguro and Stefan Sagmeister. They were flanked by local heroes the likes of Luc Van den hove (imec CEO), Ludovic Depoortere (Founder of Haystack) and Bart Preneel (KU Leuven professor). Those who were hoping to snag a ticket at the entrance were too late: both days of the summit were sold out, just like the opening night, start-up demoday, scale-up forum, kids university and closing festival night.
Twenty start-ups showed their worth at the start-up demoday as they pitched to win prizes of up to 5.000 euro in worth offered by Bolero. The scale-ups were up the next day as they were the center of attention at the scale-up forum in De Hoorn where they were linked with international VC's, experts and many others.
Art interventions by Studio L A , Dries Depoorter, Harry Nuriev and AMO in public space were found all over the city. All curated by Samir Bantal, the installations explore the interfaces between technology, innovation and future city life. Especially Studio L A's 'Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all' which relates to how we are watched and perceived on so many ways and levels ironically was a place for many selfies.
The tech expedition was open for the public and connected the audience with immersive, high-tech experiences where multidisciplinary projects combined next generation technology with refreshing creativity. Thursday evening also saw the sold out AI Opera Fausto, an artificial intelligence-infused opera composed by Prof. Luc Steels & Dr. Oscar Vilarroya, based on the legend of Faust, with a twenty-first century twist. This classical music piece delivered a contemporary take on the blurred boundaries of a digitized world.
At night, and& championed a well-selected array of avant-garde music acts. Heavyweights such as Bicep, Joy Orbison and Le Motel exchanged the stages at Het Depot and International House with local talent like Stuff., Exalt and AliA. These line-ups didn't go unnoticed as the final festival evening on Saturday 5 May was completely sold out. "We specifically chose artists who are pioneering in their genre or are making music in ways which haven't been seen up to today", Pieter Goiris explains. "Innovation is also present in music. Our line-up reflects this by programming household names next to local promising talent."
Also on Saturday, inhabitants of the region could discover new technologies and innovations themselves at several locations in the city. "Fly a drone, command a robot or discover a new world with VR goggles, anything is possible today", Mohamed Ridouani, Leuven's Elderman for economy, mentions. At Hal 5, and& Play was held to involve the families from the region and young people and get them acquainted with the things our region is known for. Kids and their parents were seen as they discovered all sorts of new technologies in an interactive way.
Back at M Museum, those interested could follow several talks by great thinkers and entrepreneurs on the crossover of health, high-tech and creativity and what it means for the region of Leuven and its citizens.
The closing festival night was quickly sold out. A muscular roof-raising live show, one of the most acclaimed underground dj’s in the world to our 5-headed hyperkinetic & genre bending live-pride & local heroes & much more were a fitting closure of our first edition.
"The attendance, enthousiasm and feedback from attendees and partners have exceeded our expectations for this first edition", Johan Merlevede, Managing Director of Leuven MindGate, mentions. "I've heard many people say how inspired they were by the speakers and how they are fascinated by everything that has been shown and told. Leuven MindGate stands for connection and cross fertilisation. It's no surprise that I'm delighted with the fact that so many other people have experienced this in the past days as well."
"We've put a huge step in the direction of positioning Leuven at the top of the world in health, high-tech, and creativity", Mohamed Ridouani continues. "As far as I'm concerned, and& will be a bi-yearly festival which will keep on positioning Leuven as an innovative region that's busy creating solutions for tomorrow's challenges."