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Leuven has been elected European Capital of Innovation!

24 September 2020

From now on, Leuven can call itself European Capital of Innovation. The prestigious award from the European Commission rewards the city that makes the best use of innovation to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. In addition to the title itself, Leuven receives 1 million euros. Together with Leuven 2030 and Leuven MindGate, the city of Leuven submitted a dossier to the European Commission for the European Capital of Innovation Award.

Stad Leuven
Leuven 2030

"Our innovation model goes beyond technological progress. Together with residents, organizations, companies and knowledge institutions, we work every day to create a better future, for Leuven and far beyond. This way of deep cooperation is now being rewarded by Europe. By reconnecting the many different forces in our city over and over again, tomorrow's solutions will first take shape here. It is our task to take the lead on the road to a just, sustainable and prosperous future, with and for everyone," says a proud mayor Mohamed Ridouani.

Leuven is the sixth European and only Belgian city to bear the title of 'European Capital of Innovation' and reached the finals of cities such as Vienna, Valencia and Milan. With this, the city joins a select circle of cities including Barcelona, Amsterdam and Paris.

Mayor Mohamed Ridouani was able to receive the award - with 1 million euros attached - virtually on Thursday during the European Research & Innovation Days. The iCapital jury unanimously chose Leuven as Innovation Capital. The European Commission praised the way in which Leuven sets up inspiring governance models in which residents, companies, organizations and knowledge institutions are committed to help shape the future.


Innovation = mission + collaboration + creativity

Mohamed Ridouani, Mayor of the City of Leuven: "This is a recognition for everyone who is committed to our city. The iCapital-award is a symbol of hope for a better common future, especially in these challenging times. It is our task to take the lead on the road to a just, sustainable and prosperous future. Innovate for the better and for all' is our motto.

Also during the corona crisis, Leuven pioneered powerful collaborations, which had an immediate tangible impact. For example, a few days after the start of the crisis, the city launched the Leuven Helps platform, which brought people in need of help into contact with helpful volunteers. More than 300 other cities and municipalities at home and abroad took over the platform in the following weeks.

In the meantime, the world-renowned Rega-institute is leading the global search for a corona vaccine, as the institute already successfully did for a vaccine against zika and polio.


"The Leuven cooperation model puts a turbo on innovation in this city," adds Johan Merlevede, director of Leuven MindGate. "Our top institutions such as KU Leuven and UC Leuven-Limburg, UZ Leuven, imec, Materialise and many others have been scoring very high on international rankings for years, but they can't solve the societal challenges facing us alone. This is done through the combined imagination and creativity of our residents, companies and knowledge institutions."

Merlevede is extremely proud of the European recognition: "This award is an exceptional recognition of the innovative power of Leuven's ecosystem. Anyone in Leuven can be proud to live or work in the city that is recognized by Europe as the capital of innovation. The innovations in Leuven make people's lives better: just think of all the Leuven inventions that have made life a little more bearable over the past corona months. Above all, the iCapital-award should encourage us to continue our commitment to further cooperate and innovate on a technological, climatic and social level. This is what makes the Leuven region so strong and unique. In Leuven, the smart and creative minds come together, and together we get an even better end result".

Katrien Rycken, director of Leuven 2030: "Leuven is clear in its strategy: invariably structurally and scientifically founded, working together city-wide on the basis of a shared mission to realize an accelerated, socially just climate transition and to choose the best possible future. Together we drew up a unique and widely supported Roadmap, with all the major partners in the city. This scientifically substantiated and quantified plan brings focus to the choices we have to make as a society and maps out the way to a climate-neutral Leuven. The unique and structural collaboration model of Leuven 2030 accelerates the transition to an attractive, resilient and sustainable Leuven".

Leuven is an urban lab for the future

Mayor Ridouani wants to strengthen the Leuven model as much as possible and has the ambition to establish a City Transformation Academy, an urban lab for the future.

"Leuven is a future lab for Europe. The solutions for the future seize first place here and are being tested here. We are a city of students, researchers, entrepreneurs and residents of 163 different nationalities. By reconnecting these various forces in Leuven time and again, the solutions of the future take shape here. Our model of radical collaboration and involved leadership can be a blueprint for other European cities," concludes Ridouani.


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How can we help?

The Leuven MindGate team is at your disposal for any questions about the Leuven Innovation Region. Do you want to invest, work or study in the region? We can help you find your way.

We also facilitate collaboration and innovation between companies, knowledge institutes and government within the Leuven Innovation Region, and we are happy to guide any of these stakeholders towards innovation.