Belgian city of Leuven recognised as 'innovation hub' with EU award

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By Christopher Pitchers  & Bryan Carter
Belgian city of Leuven recognised as 'innovation hub' with EU award
Copyright  Euronews

The Belgian city of Leuven has been named this year's European Capital of Innovation, receiving one million euros in the process.

The small city of just 100,000 people has made a name for itself as an innovation hub in the areas of health, the environment and education.

One example of this is a so-called "health house" called Leuven Mindgate, which showcases the newest technologies in healthcare. Johan Merlevede, its Managing director, showed Euronews a device for showing the location of veins on people's arms to facilitate injections for medical professionals.

Leuven aims to be carbon neutral by 2050 and has implemented a mobility plan that increased the number of cyclists and reduced CO2 emissions.

Buildings are also being renovated in pursuit of the goal and new parks have been created.

Citizens have been invited to provide their input on Leuven's new projects.

While the EU has praised Leuven's model of governance, the city's mayor has said that getting citizens and stakeholders to actively participate is easier in a city of 100,000 people.

"If you don't start locally it will get nowhere. And I am rather optimistic, you know why? Because, worldwide, I see bigger and smaller cities taking the lead. 

"They go further than their national governments, but, in the end, national governments follow. And so I hope that big institutions like the European Union, they should give more attention to what is happening locally and they are doing it," Mohamed Ridouani, the Mayor of Leuven told Euronews.

Another hurdle on the path to carbon-neutrality is, of course, money, which Katrien Rycken, Coordinator of Leuven 2030 explained.

"What we see, for example, from Leuven is that there is a solid and sound business case to become climate neutral by 2050, but the problem is that the people and the organisations that need to invest in the climate transition are not necessarily the same people and organisations that will get the return. 

"We also see that the benefits of a climate-neutral city are not always easily translated into euros."

Past winners of the EU Capital of Innovation award include Barcelona, Amsterdam, Paris, Athens, and Nantes.