Leuven awarded European Capital of Innovation 2020

Lea Hemetsberger

Sep 24, 2020


Belgium | Press Release

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Leuven is the new European Capital of Innovation 2020. The award, also known as iCapital award, recognises European cities who are demonstrating their ability to harness innovation effectively to improve the lives of its citizens.

Leuven, a member of Open & Agile Smart Cities (OASC), has won the award for “the city’s innovation concepts as well as processes and governance models creating a framework that brings ideas to life.” The municipality receives a €1 Mio prize funded under Horizon 2020, the EU research and innovation programme. 

Leuven won the iCapital award against stiff competition: Three members of OASC –  Espoo (Finland), Valencia (Spain) and Vienna (Austria) – as well as Helsingborg (Sweden), and Cluj-Napoca (Romania) were among the six finalists.

Leuven: A mission-oriented model


Leuven is the sixth city to win the European Capital of Innovation award. The European Commission has recognised the city for its ambition to become one of “Europe’s Labs of the Future through a mission-oriented model that facilitates collaborative innovation.”

Furthermore, Leuven’s activities to actively engage and co-create with citizens and a diverse set of stakeholders from research and business stood out for the jury.

The Mayor of Leuven, Mohamed Ridouani, said:

I am honoured and thankful for this award, which is a symbol of hope for a better common future, especially in these challenging times. Innovation for the better and for all is Leuven’s motto. Collaboration and empathetic leadership, translated systematically into an engaging governance model, is our way of getting it done.

Among Leuven’s key projects and initiatives, for which the city has won the award, are:

  • Leuven 2030: The city’s roadmap towards carbon-neutrality includes over 600 partners, including governments, knowledge institutions, companies, organisations and citizens, work together to develop and implement a climate transition strategy.
  • Leuven Helps, an online platform launched during the COVID-19 crisis, connected residents in need with thousands of volunteers ready to help. Leuven was the first city to set up a platform of this kind, later adopted by 280 cities around the world.
  • Leuven MindGate: a unique innovation ecosystem composed of companies, knowledge institutions and the government, which creates a breeding ground for talent, entrepreneurship and investments, and makes Leuven one of the world’s prime regions for health, high-tech and creativity.
  • Leuven, Maak het Mee! (Leuven, Co-Create!) launched an open call for citizens to submit their ideas on how to make Leuven a better place to live, work and play.
  • The transformation of Leuven’s Frederik Lintsstraat into a ‘climate street’ thanks to neighbourhood actions addressing sustainable homes, mobility, consumption and more.
  • The citywide network ‘Co-creating education’ (SOM), which aims to enhance equal learning opportunities and promote diversity, developed ‘Leuven Learns’ during the COVID-19 crisis. This tool connects teachers, students, experts, and volunteers to facilitate the transition to e-learning.

Read the announcement in full: Link

Watch the award ceremony