5 - Strengthening the start-up ecosystem in North Rhine-Westphalia

North Rhine-Westphalia should be one of the leading hotspots for start-ups in Germany and Europe.

Where we are now

A region only becomes really appealing for national and international mobile start-ups if it has a well-functioning ecosystem. Successful teams of entrepreneurs, who share their expertise and often also their fortune with young entrepreneurs, have particular appeal. Universities are also very important as powerhouses for ideas and educators of a qualified workforce.

As a polycentric region, North Rhine-Westphalia is not the easiest place to start. In the national and international competition for start-ups and skilled workers, our federal state will only stand a chance if the ecosystems of its towns and cities join forces to present an image of a cohesive region.

The appeal of start-up ecosystems in North Rhine-Westphalia has significantly increased in recent years. The Global Start-up Ecosystem Report 2019 puts the Rhineland in the top 20 of the world’s ecosystems where the focus is on expertise, and in the top 30 when it comes to recruiting affordable young talent. NRWalley is now the largest regional Association of the Federation of German Start-ups. North Rhine-Westphalia is already in the lead regarding its share in the German Start-up Monitor (see figure).

Headquarters of start-ups by federal state on a map of Germany
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Young new businesses’ business models and processes require a high-performing digital infrastructure in which North Rhine-Westphalia is forging ahead. By the end of 2022, all business parks should have gigabit connections. We are also creating the framework to achieve provision of gigabit connections across the board and are investing a total of 5 billion euros for this purpose.

Where we want to be

North Rhine-Westphalia should be one of the leading hotspots for start-ups in Germany and Europe.

What we are doing

  • Establishing the DWNRW Hubs in September 2016 provided the initial impetus for the start-up ecosystem in North Rhine-Westphalia. Since the DWNRW Hubs were established, isolated local support services for start-ups have grown to become regional platforms. Together with private hubs, such as the Founders Foundation in Bielefeld and Garage 33 in Paderborn, the DWNRW Hubs are proving to be as good as their name for cooperation between digital start-ups and established businesses. We shall continue to provide financial support to the DWNRW Hubs for three more years with effect from autumn 2019.

  • Regionally adapted event formats are necessary if we want the topics of ‘digitisation’ and ‘cooperation of digital start-ups with established businesses’ to become a permanent feature in our business communities. We are therefore issuing a call for funding, entitled Förderaufruf DWNRW-RegioEvents, which will earmark funding for a multitude of smaller information and networking events in these subject areas. Through this call for funding, we are supplementing what we have already kick-started with the support of the network projects through DWNRW Networks. The aim of both these measures is to build networks on the topic of digitisation between the people involved in start-ups, medium-sized and large enterprises in the various regions.

  • To make us more visible as the top location for start-ups, we are creating an online platform with all partners in the ecosystem. accelerate.nrw currently already offers an overview of 28 accelerator programmes in 16 towns and cities.

  • To be able to provide specific support to Start-up Centres and Maker Spaces, it is our initiative that the coordination framework for the joint task of ‘improving the regional economic structure’ should permit support by the state. Under the state of North Rhine-Westphalia's ‘Regional Business Promotion’ programme (RWP), we shall support the establishment and development of these centres.

  • We want to intensify the exchange between all privately and publicly initiated hubs in this state. This also includes industry-specific hubs, such as DigitalHub.Logistics in Dortmund and InsurLab Germany.

  • Trade fairs are ideal marketing network platforms for start-ups. Consequently, we enable start-ups from North Rhine-Westphalia to participate at regional association stands on preferential terms at selected leading trade fairs in Germany.

  • Through NRW.Global Business we offer travel for entrepreneurs and participation for start-ups at trade shows abroad, to support men and women starting their own business to home in on international markets.

  • Our centre of expertise, known as the Kompetenzzentrum Gigabit NRW, enables us to provide a strong partner for all questions on the issue of cost-effective broadband expansion. The Geschäftsstellen Gigabit NRW in the District Government departments of Arnsberg, Detmold, Düsseldorf, Cologne and Munster are agencies that provide advice on funding. They initiate and support funding projects for broadband connections in homes, schools and business parks. The state-sponsored Gigabit coordinators are the people who link states with local authorities. They manage expansion at a local level.