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European City of Science: 'major showcase' for the city of Leiden

Leiden has been designated European City of Science 2022. The city's achievements as a city of science and innovation will be celebrated throughout the year, with as a highlight the international EuroScience Open Forum conference. The members of the core team that will organise this mega-event introduced themselves on 11 March.

‘The clock is ticking fast,’ said Fried Kramer in a room in Museum Volkenkunde. Kramer is programme director of the steering committee that will organise the European City of Science (ECS). Although 2022 may seem a long way away, he warned, big events such as the ECS need proper planning. ‘And that’s only possible if all the relevant parties help us. Right away.’

Core team

The members of the core team introduced themselves at the meeting. Alongside Kramer, the team consists of staff from Leiden University, the LUMC, the Municipality of Leiden and Leiden Marketing. The team is supported by two local scientific champions: professors Corinne Hofman and Ferry Breedveld. A new website is the first tangible achievement.

The ECS is a biennial event in which a European city is chosen as temporary scientific capital of Europe. A permanent fixture of this is a big interdisciplinary scientific conference: the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF). The 10th edition of this conference will take place in Leiden from 11 to 15 July 2022. ‘It’s an amazing showcase for Leiden and the other Dutch university towns,’ said Leiden Mayor Henri Lenferink. ‘We will show that this event belongs in Leiden, that we are cut out for organising this. But we’ll only manage if various parties in the city help get the show on the road.’

Pieterskerk as central point

The exact form that the ECS will take is still under discussion. The core team wants to begin by calling for reinforcements. An organisation team will need to take care of the practical side of things, and a board of experts will need to advise on the plans, like a kind of supervisory board. The core team does have an idea of the basic contours of the event, however: the historical centre will be the backdrop of ESOF, with the Pieterkerk as a central point and all event locations within walking distance. But the impact of the ECS will be felt way beyond Leiden. ‘We want to invite other university cities to present themselves,’ said Kramer. ‘The entire Dutch knowledge ecosystem can introduce itself, including spin-offs and knowledge-intensive companies.’

‘If you ask me, it will be a celebration of Dutch science as a whole,’ said Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker, adding that this was easy for him to say because by then he will have handed on the Rector’s baton to his successor. ‘I would mainly like to call on the core team to tap into new target groups that don’t normally come into contact with science. We are already trying our hand at this with our 444th anniversary celebrations, with activities that involve the city’s residents.’

Benefits

The discussion then shifted to the more prosaic matter of the benefits. Jos Vranken (NBTC Holland Marketing) and Lucien Geelhoed (Leiden Marketing) showed that conference delegates spend an average of around €1,000 per stay in a conference city. The conference will also create a legacy that can often last years. ‘Take a city like Tallinn, which was European Cultural Capital in 2011,’ said Geelhoed. ‘Straight after this was announced, more conferences started coming to Tallinn, and the effect was apparent long after 2011. How people view a city can change drastically after an event like this.’

Vranken added: ‘This can also happen to Leiden, at least if we manage to organise an event that matches the city’s DNA.’

Main photo: Mayor Henri Lenferink (Hielco Kuipers)
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Visit the new website

To find out more about what ECS and ESOF will mean for Leiden, visit the new website.

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