A sector report about the infrastructure of sustainable technologies in North Rhine-Westphalia

The industrialization introduced radical change to the world, its people and to the economy, mostly at the expense of the environment. Germany is no exception to this rule. However, the country is determined to embark on the transition to carbon neutrality till 2045, signaling that economic progress does not have to be at the environments expense. North Rhine-Westphalia, the cradle of Germany’s industrialization is vital to this process. Having greatly benefitted from its natural riches of coal and steel production, NRW has been the engine of Germany’s industrial progress and forms till this day Germany’s industrial core. Confronting its industrial heritage, NRW seeks innovative solutions in greening its economy while maintaining its prosperity.

Facts & Figures

Building on its industrial history, NRW’s local economy is the 6th largest in Europe and even the 18th in the world, making it an economic powerhouse. Already today, the green tech sector contributes 6% to the gross value added in NRW, adding value north of 35 billion euros. Similarly, the sector has steadily grown by 1,9% annually since 2009, employing 468,000 people, predominantly in the service, construction and manufacturing sector. Further, one third of its revenue is generated through exports, indicating rising demand for greening services among NRW’s neighbors. Additionally, with the ongoing pressure to shift away from energy generated by fossil fuels, the domestic industry, consuming nearly 30% of Germany’s energy, is looking for alternative, green and innovative solutions, reducing the consumption of fossils while gaining efficiency as well as green sources such as hydrogen. Hence, to meet the current demand of 104TWh annually and 42TWh from its industry alone, the government of NRW has launched its own variant of a hydrogen roadmap, aiming to foster a domestic hydrogen market.

Greening Germany's industrial core - NRW

NRW offers great opportunities for the green tech market. Not only is the state home to a dynamic economy, generating 773 billion euros and an industry contributing over 50% to this, 356 billion euros. The region is also home to over 700,000 SMEs, hence offering a huge variety of potential customers, business partners and cooperation for green tech firms, seeking to enter the German market. Furthermore, as every fourth market leader in Germany is located in NRW and the local industries are emphasizing the need to transition, demand for innovation is on the rise. Already today, many new industrial and business parks are being created, targeting especially green tech, such as the EUREF Campus Düsseldorf or the Smart-Tec Campus Wuppertal.

In addition to an immense potential of serving to a broad variety of industrial customers, NRW also offers some of the leading institutions in scientific research and education the country, such as the Wuppertal Institute or the Fraunhofer institutes Umsicht and IAIS. Similarly, in education, nearly 800,000 students are currently learning and researching in NRW. 40% of which are coming from the MINT-fields, promising a rich pool of talent for the green tech sector. Furthermore, NRW hosts more than 30 courses and programs that are directly targeting green tech. Leading education facilities are the TU Dortmund, the RWTH Aachen or the Ruhr Universität Bochum. Next to the supply with leading talents, the research and education institutions in the state are also open to foster common exchange and projects with the companies, enabling the transfer and application of newest insights from the scientific frontier to the practical needs of the companies.

Finally, being aware of the great challenges in transitioning the local economy to carbon neutrality and energy efficiency, the central as well as local government is actively supporting the settlement of innovative green tech companies in the region. For instance, there is the previously mentioned initiative to create a domestic production and industry of hydrogen, being supported by the Package for the future, allocating over 7 billion eurps in building up this market as well as 2 billion euros to foster international partnerships to meet the increasing demand and compensate for the lack of domestic supply. Besides the hydrogen roadmap, the public sector is also keen in supporting the construction sector in becoming greener and more energy efficient by launching new building projects for commercial properties, harnessing the innovative solutions and material provided by the green tech sector.

Ecosystem Green Tech

Due to its many advantages, NRW is home to a perfect ecosystem for green tech companies in Germany. The region is already home to many networks, clusters and accelerators, such as Kompetenznetzwerk Umweltwirtschaft NRW (Network for Competence and environmental economy), NRW.Energy4Climate and Circular Valley. The latter is cooperating with over 35 startups already on the globe to raise international awareness for green tech and to combat climate change at an international stage. Further, as already mentioned, NRW houses excellent research institutes as the Fraunhofer Institutes or the Jülich Research Center, producing key insights and vital progress for startups and entrepreneurs to tackle challenges and develop their ideas. Some of this has already led to innovative and groundbreaking projects and programs in NRW. For instance, dedicating themselves to the implementation and development of digital and artificial intelligence as source of green tech solutions, there is the Competence platform AI in NRW, KI.NRW.

Trusted Partners for the transformation

In order to successfully facilitate the growing market for green tech and to support the young innovators, NRW provides many great partners and their respective programs to realize the potential of green tech. One key component of this is of course funding. The latter can be achieved either by private or public investors. For both of which ZENIT is providing the suitable network and advice. Another source is the NRW.BANK, offering low interest loans for up to 10 million euros over 5 years via its NRW.BANK.Gründung und Wachstum or the NRW.BANK:Elektromobilität programs. For additional networking in the region, there are many great initiatives such as NRW.Energy4Climate or Greentech.Ruhr, fostering lasting links and cooperation among businesses, test labs and funding opportunities. Another vital partner is the region and across Germany are the local chambers of industry and commerce (IHK), offering strong advice and assistance to all companies in their respective district. Advising on crucial business issues and regulatory affairs, the IHKs are well suited to assist in any situation and to guide businesses in the region.

If you want to hear more about this excting sector feel free to rewatch our corresponding webinar here:

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