Coming with a reward of EUR 1 million, the title recognizes the city’s commitment to innovating for a sustainable and resilient future as well as to involving citizens, institutions, businesses and organizations. It also adds to previous recognitions of Leuven’s university (KU Leuven), which was ranked as Europe’s most innovative and the world’s 7th-most innovative by press agency Reuters in 2019.
Every year, the European Commission awards the iCapital title to the city that makes the best use of innovation to improve its citizens’ quality of life. In an exciting final round, Leuven won from cities such as Milan, Valencia, Vienna and Helsingborg. Ghent, another of Flanders’ main cities, was also in the running for the title. But in the end, Leuven claimed victory.
Just as in 2018, the city of Leuven put itself forward as a candidate together with the Leuven 2030 initiative and Leuven MindGate. Back then, the city finished in the top 3, while the Greek capital Athens received the iCapital title. “That was already a great recognition for our city, but this year’s victory is the crowning glory of our work,” says Mohamed Ridouani, mayor of Leuven. “To compete for the iCapital title, one of the main criteria is citizen involvement, and that’s a major part of Leuven’s DNA. The inhabitants of Leuven are very engaged. Every day we work with a lot of people to make Leuven the most sustainable, social and prosperous city in Europe.”
Leuven’s innovative mindset also contributed to the victory. “Leuven leads the way with its innovative and ambitious approach to societal challenges,” Ridouani comments. “We are proud of our unique way of working together, for which we have received European recognition in the past and which continues to inspire us.”
“This title acknowledges the innovative power of the city’s ecosystem,” adds Johan Merlevede, director of Leuven MindGate. “Leuven’s innovations make people’s lives better: just think of all of the inventions that helped make life more bearable during the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown. It’s clear: Leuven is where strong and creative minds come together, and together we achieve the best results.”