The title was awarded to Leuven in recognition of its excellent innovation concepts as well as its processes and governance models that enable ideas come to life. The prize comes with a €1 million cash prize funded by Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme. The other five runner-up cities – Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Espoo (Finland), Helsingborg (Sweden), Valencia (Spain) and Vienna (Austria) – will receive €100,000 each to promote and scale up their innovation practices.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “Leuven is a mission-driven city that excels in innovative governance models. It offers its people an opportunity to get involved in critical decision-making processes. But it’s an honour to recognise the initiatives of all six winners. Their vibrant innovation ecosystems are an inspiration to all European cities.”
Leuven is the sixth city to win the European Capital of Innovation award, and the third non-capital city after Barcelona and Nantes. Leuven aims to become one of Europe’s Labs of the Future through a mission-oriented model in which different groups of stakeholders come together to develop and implement innovative solutions to complex challenges, from climate change and the shift to a circular economy to ensuring high-quality education and care.
This year’s edition of the European Capital of Innovation Awards was launched in March 2020. Also known as iCapital Awards, the competition was open to cities with a minimum of 100,000 inhabitants from the EU Member States and countries associated to Horizon 2020. The competition first took place in 2014. Past winners include Barcelona (2014), Amsterdam (2016), Paris (2017), Athens (2018) and Nantes (2019). More information is available here.