The Belgian city actively involves its citizens in the creation and testing of new ideas and was praised for its ground-breaking collaboration model.
The European Commission (EC) has named the Belgian city of Leuven as the European Capital of Innovation.
The award recognises the city that best exploits innovation to improve the quality of life for its citizens and the municipality was praised for its ground-breaking collaboration model.
It receives a €1m prize funded under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme. The five runner-up cities were Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Espoo (Finland), Helsingborg (Sweden), Valencia (Spain) and Vienna (Austria), which each receive €100,000.
Leuven is the sixth city to win the award and the third non-capital city after Barcelona and Nantes. It aims to become one of Europe’s Labs of the Future through an operating model that facilitates collaborative innovation. Different groups of stakeholders come together, with the common purpose of innovating around complex challenges from climate change and the shift to a circular economy to ensuring high-quality education and care.
Leuven is not only providing increased opportunities for innovating to its citizens, but also actively involving them in testing their ideas in the city.
“Our innovation model goes beyond technological progress. Together with residents, organisations, businesses and knowledge institutions we are working every day towards a better future – for Leuven and far beyond,” said mayor Mohamed Ridouani.
He added: “This type of in-depth cooperation is now being acknowledged and rewarded by Europe. By constantly reconnecting the many diverse forces in our city, the solutions of tomorrow first take shape here. Our mission is to lead the way towards a sustainable and prosperous future with and for everyone.”
Leuven’s key innovative projects and initiatives include:
“Leuven is a future laboratory for Europe. The solutions for the future happen here first and are tested here”
Ridouani described the iCapital award is a symbol of hope “for a better shared future”, especially in these challenging times.
He added: “Our mission is to lead the way towards a just, sustainable and prosperous future. ‘Innovate for the better and for all’ is our motto.”
Ridouani wants to strengthen the Leuven model as much as possible and aims to establish a City Transformation Academy to serve as an urban laboratory for the future.
He continued: “Leuven is a future laboratory for Europe. The solutions for the future happen here first and are tested here. We are a city of students, researchers, entrepreneurs and residents spanning 163 different nationalities. By constantly reconnecting these diverse forces in Leuven, the solutions of tomorrow take shape here. Our model of radical cooperation and engaged leadership can be a blueprint for other European cities.”
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