Go to the content

Leuven is one of the 6 most innovative European cities in 2018!

15 October 2018

Leuven is one of the six finalists in the European iCapitalAwards contest - promoting and rewarding innovative European cities. The contest dossier was sent in by Leuven MindGate, together with the city of Leuven and Leuven2030.


Six cities championing outstanding innovation strategies to improve the lives of citizens and business entered the final stage of this year's European Capital of Innovation contest funded under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme.

Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said:

Many European cities are world leaders in urban innovation. They find new ways of involving citizens in community life, support business growth or adapt to global challenges and sustain the local social fabric. All of the contestants for the European Capital of Innovation title are testament to such efforts. I look forward to announcing the winner at next month’s awarding ceremony.

Leuven reaches the final stage of the 2018 European Capital of Innovation contest, together with these cities:

  • Aarhus (Denmark): the Danish city is a pioneer of smart city technologies such as using cutting-edge sensor technology to tackle peak traffic and reduce fuel consumption. It has a long tradition of open data, accessible and usable by everyone, and it has made engagement a policy matter. With almost 2700 active volunteering clubs, this is a place where every other citizen volunteers. All city departments have resources dedicated to foster dialogue and contact with citizens, and make the most out of such civic spirit.
  • Athens (Greece): In times of national austerity and economic hardship, the Greek capital broke fresh ground with new social innovation initiatives. With Curing the Limbo, Athens is giving refugees and underprivileged citizens the chance to afford housing, develop work skills or find employment. In addition, the Digital Council formed an alliance with private partners to support digital literacy and foster civic technology such as smart recycling bins.
  • Hamburg (Germany): An economic and innovation powerhouse, the German city is running for the crown of innovation capital by linking science, business and governance, and putting them to work on solving societal challenges. To name but a few examples, Hamburg’s university and climate clusters are helping scientists predict and mitigate climate change, the city hosts Europe’s biggest district for car sharing and electro-mobility, and it organises a workshop fostering 6200 citizen contributions and urban dialogues.
  • Leuven (Belgium): Hosting one of Europe's oldest and most prestigious universities, Leuven is working hard to transfer its wealth of knowledge and talent to all corners of society through collaborative governance. Leuven MindGate, a network organisation, stimulates cross-pollination and closer ties between its members. Leuven 2030 brings together 100 organisations and private members committed to climate-oriented measures that will make the city carbon neutral by the end of the next decade.
  • Toulouse (France): The strategy of ‘Open Metropolis’ involves citizens as innovation players and mobilises them to back innovation processes (they were even consulted about the city’s application to become European Capital of Innovation). The Laboratory of Usages is one of the locations bringing together start-ups, citizens, business and administration to propose and experiment ideas, such as the "artificially intelligent" chatbot Violette, who assists citizens in public administration matters 24/7.
  • Umeå (Sweden): This tiny city in North East Sweden become a leader in urban innovation by harbouring great ambitions for its citizens whilst remaining truthful to its values of community, inclusiveness, creativity and gender equality. The merits of Umeå, which is working to increase its population size by more than a half by 2050, go from hosting world-class universities to testing new methods of engaging citizens, as for example asking them to paintball buildings as a way of expressing their preferences during their renovation.

The winner – European Capital of Innovation 2018 – will be announced on 6 November at the Web Summit in Lisbon (Portugal). The city demonstrating the best innovation ecosystem will win a prize of €1 million to scale up its innovation activities. Five runners-up will receive €100 000 each.


This year’s European Capital of Innovation Awards was launched in February 2018. Twenty-six eligible cities from 16 countries applied to the competition. The contest was open to cities with over 100 000 inhabitants from EU Member States and Countries Associated to Horizon 2020, the EU's research and innovation programme. Barcelona, Amsterdam and Paris won the competition in 2014, 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Related News

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.