"ANT Machines develops automated heavy-duty robots for port and yard operations. They address the issues of driver shortage, sustainability, and operational efficiency and are intended to replace conventional terminal trucks to make intralogistics more environmentally friendly and resilient, said the CEO of ANT Machines, Mr. Vitaly Chukanov.
Vitaly, as former participant of our Start.up! Germany Tour in 2021, what was your experience?
I think it has a very interesting format deriving from its global character. At each stage of participation, we could listen to the pitches of our fellow startups from our area and other parts of the world. It was super interesting and inspiring to hear the ways people address challenges and propose solutions. We also find the FAQ session with the jury very important. It helps better understand what remains unclear from the pitch and what would be the key points of interest of stakeholders from different fields. So each stage strengthened our pitch deck for the next presentations.
Why did you participate in the SUGT? What have been your goals? Why Germany?
We thought about settling in Germany for some time before the SUGT. For such an engineering and hardware startup as ANT Machines Germany is the first place that comes to mind in terms of access to technologies, supply, and respective partner network. SUGT for us was a way to get a better overview of the opportunities for startups in the area, to check what support programs exist, and most importantly to understand whether our project is potentially interesting for the region itself and the stakeholders there.
How did it go with ANT Machines after the SUGT experience? A settlement?
We are settled in Dortmund, NRW, and happy about it. SUGT format and especially the final event allowed us to get introductions to local networks and agencies, which facilitates access to contacts to potential customers and suppliers in the region. We became partners of Zenit – the business association of over 200 enterprises from NRW, Germany, and other countries.
What was the aim of settling in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany for ANT Machines?
North Rhine-Westphalia is the largest European logistics cluster with easy access to large ports, multimodal terminals, and other objects of logistics infrastructure.
Whereas ANT develops innovative robots for heavy-duty yard operations in this type of site, such an environment is the best place to be for us.
Also, there are a lot of initiatives focusing on innovations in the field of logistics. For instance, we were selected to be part of Startport – the logistics-focused accelerator program of NRW. But the overall startup support is also well developed in the region – from the very first steps like drafting and fine-tuning the business idea to internationalization and entering the global market.
What can you recommend on behalf of your experience to other startups that want to do business in Germany?
If a startup considers incorporation, relocation, or expansion to the German or European market, I would recommend NRW. In my opinion, the region managed to create a very supportive environment and can help with solutions with almost every aspect of the startup development process. But even if the startup wants to work with German national or regional companies, it makes a lot of sense to establish a connection to the agencies in the region since this can serve as a great door-opener to the partners needed.
I have a vast international experience in business and can say that of course in some aspects the German approach is different from other areas of the world, but it remains straightforward and win-win oriented which helps great projects develop and succeed.
What role is your AHK playing in the local startup scene? Have there been any changes since the last year of the tour? (increased interest also among smaller firms to become international?)
The AHK Greater China has an innovation strategy department with dedicated staff focusing on China-wide innovation projects and events. We support innovation and R&D activities of German companies in China and connect startups with German corporates for specific projects. For example, the IGNITE event series focuses on best practice examples on how to tackle challenges in innovative ways and foster the exchange among member companies and with potential strategic partners, like startups. Additionally, we just published the innovation survey 2022 “Innovation from China Going Global” with nearly 400 German companies sharing their challenges, opportunities and approaches to R&D and innovation activities in China. We regularly participate in the Start.Up! Germany Tour and work on continuously expanding our network among key stakeholders and deepening our knowledge base on trends and developments in the Chinese innovation ecosystem.
How has the pandemic impacted China’s startup scene over the last years?
With the country’s rigid response to COVID-19 in 2020 and China’s economy recovering fairly quickly, the impact of the pandemic on startups was initially less pronounced, compared to other countries. However, recent local outbreaks followed by severe lockdowns in startup hubs such as Shenzhen and Shanghai had major negative effects on the development of the local startup ecosystem. For instance, the number of newly founded startups declined by almost 80% compared to previous years during the lockdowns. While the rest of the world is gradually opening up and returning to business as usual, China continues to impose travel restrictions. This restricts startups in their internationalization opportunities, knowledge and expertise exchange with other startup ecosystems and participation in international startup competitions.
The decarbonization goals of the Chinese government (reducing carbon emissions from the peak level by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060) provide many opportunities for foreign and Chinese companies of any size, incl. startups. Innovative enterprises play a crucial role in achieving these goals. Innovative products, services, technologies, and solutions which contribute to reducing emissions along the entire value chain are in high demand. Additionally, digitalization of processes in which startups and their solutions are an important factor, enhance efficiency and support the development of a more sustainable industry. A best practice example for German startups in the Chinese hydrogen industry is Hydrogenious Technologies, which cooperates with the Chinese company Broad-Ocean Motor. Their technology is used in hydrogen stations in China. A similar example which was part of our IGNITE event series is the Chinese startup Pan Support, which uses AI technology to analyze and optimize energy management in industrial plants, also for German companies in China. According to the Asian Development Bank, more than two thirds of new energy enterprises in China were founded after 2010, an additional indicator that startups do play a crucial role in achieving local decarbonization goals and benefit from supporting regulations and policies.
How are Chinese startups tackling the current crises in the global supply-chains?
All companies which are sourcing goods internationally or supplying global markets with their hardware products are affected by supply-chain disruptions. Compared to startups, larger companies have often more rapidly the possibility to diversify their supply chains, building on pre-existing channels. On the other hand, startups which operate on a much smaller scale, are more flexible and innovative in finding solutions and can alter their business scope at a fast pace. Furthermore, many startups focus on digital products and services and are therefore less impacted by global supply-chain disruptions.
With the recent success of Chinese EV manufactures such as BYD, where do you see the future of startups in the mobility sector?
The startup environment in the automotive sector is flourishing. Including suppliers, over 600 startups are active in the electric vehicle space in China. The NEV manufacturers Nio and Xpeng gained international attention, as well as the supplier iFLYTEK (intelligent speech recognition and AI) and Momenta (autonomous driving). These startups reached unicorn status and shape developments not only in the Chinese automotive market, but also internationally. Several Chinese cities allow widespread testing of autonomous driving. For instance, Shenzhen is evaluating to open up the entire city for autonomous cars. Shenzhen is also famous for its fleet of 100% electric public busses and taxis. Self-driving cleaning vehicles or convenience stores on wheels in parks are a common encounter in daily life. The charging infrastructure for NEVs is often meeting the demand, especially in the cities. The possibility to gain practical experience and direct consumer feedback and involvement does provide advantages for Chinese startups in the mobility sector on a global scale.
How did you select the best startups in your country for the Start.up! Germany Tour?
We used social media marketing via WeChat to advertise the Start.up! Germany Tour among the Chinese startup ecosystem. This year we are planning on organizing an Innovation Night Startup Competition, as part of the Innovation Summit in Shenzhen with pre-events in several startup hotspots in China (all depending on pandemic situation and local regulations). All startups need to fulfill a certain set of requirements, and a jury made of experts and stakeholders of the Sino-German startup industry will vote for the best startups to participate in the tour.
Israel is enjoying an impeccable reputation as one of the start-up friendliest places on the globe. What do you think is Israel’s key to such success? What do you think needs improving?
There are several factors that have made Israel’s startup scene so successful. An innovation cycle based on synergies between market opportunities, government support, an open business culture, and a large ecosystem has enabled Israel’s rich ecosystem to thrive. This innovation cycle is made possible by the cultural aspects that shape the Israeli population such as multiculturalism, a willingness to take risks, ambition, and flat hierarchies, which all lead to a special readiness to act quickly and to “just go for it”.
Another important factor is “necessity”, as we would say in German “Notwendigkeit ist die Mutter der Erfindung” or in English “Necessity is the mother of innovation”. The State of Israel is relatively small, lacks natural resources, and is often confronted with water shortages that lead to food shortages. Innovative ideas are of utmost importance to ensure the population’s survival.
However, there is always room to grow. The country could benefit from furthering the incorporation of the Arab population into the high-tech sector as well as from the relaxation of work permits, which would allow more foreigners to enter the country, leading to even more growth and diversity.
How would you describe the current trends in Israel’s startup scene?
Currently, Israel is focusing on the following trends:
Cybersecurity, AI & automation, digital health, and climate tech.
Cybersecurity has always been an important field in Israel due to its necessity. AI & Automation are specifically focusing on the robotics field. The digital health sector has always been a topic of focus; however, the pandemic situation has strengthened it specifically in the telemedicine field.
In the climate tech sector hydrogen is becoming a focus topic. With startups such as H2Pro, the companies are trying to find new ways to produce, to store and to distribute hydrogen.
Given this great reputation and conditions, what makes Germany such an
attractive destination for Israeli Startups?
Germany is one of the leading countries in the European economic area and has
the largest market within the European Union. This is accompanied by a large
industrial sector that is known for its diversity. Furthermore, the central location
of the Federal Republic of Germany with its progressive and economically strong
neighboring countries such as France is also very lucrative from a geographical
point of view. Especially the membership in the European Union makes further
markets more easily accessible and thus holds great potential for expansion.
Besides that, the pressure in Germany and Europe to keep up in the areas of
digitization and innovation is high. High-tech companies from Israel can
counteract this pressure with innovative ideas and solutions and thus offer one
of the best possible cooperation. Israelis, on the other hand, can learn from
German organizational talent how to scale processes sustainably and develop
The CEO of our AHK Israel, Grisha Alroi-Arloser, summed it up very well:
Israelis show Germans how to fly and Germans show Israelis how to land safely
How do you prepare your startups for the tour and Germany?
It is important to sensitize Israeli startups to the intercultural differences that
exist between the two populations.
While work and private life merge in Israel, Germans prefer a strict separation of
these spheres. This includes very simple issues such as the formal tone and the
necessary politeness in everyday business life, which in Germany means, for
example, not to address a potential business partner by his first name or to be
punctual at appointments.
Furthermore, Israeli startups need to be prepared for the fact that processes in
Germany are more organized, thus things are moving slower.
We do recommend our startups to participate in the well-organized pre-startup
program of the Start.up! Germany Tour as it offers a very good opportunity to get
business insights from German companies about the German market and its
What do you think is the main advantage of the tour and what would you change to make it even better?
One of the most important advantages is certainly the internationality of the tour and with it the opportunity to get to know not only German companies but also startups from all over the world. Thus, the tour offers an amazing platform to make new contacts and learn about new trends and ways of thinking.
The only thing we would change to improve the tour, would be to allow even more startups the chance to participate in person and not just virtually.
With Chile as one of the top destinations for startups, most certainly in South America, what is Chile’s secret? And what is the secret for his transformation to a popular destination in Latin America?
- The Chilean government and the entrepreneurship programs like CORFO and Start-Up-Chile are pushing the startup scene to create economic, social, and environmental benefits in the country. The programs offer start-up capital, mentoring workshops, co-working spaces, and access to investors.
- Otherwise, to attract foreign entrepreneurs the country launched 2017 a Visa Tech, which allows technology talent to acquire a visa in just 15 days.
- In the first half of 2022, Chile's venture capital industry raised US$550 million in investment compared to US$411 million in the same period a year ago, according to the Chilean Venture Capital Association (ACVC)
- And despite the country’s relatively small size, it is a reliable market where entrepreneurs test pilots in Latin America
- Another advantage of Chile over its neighboring countries is the high proportion of the population that has access to the Internet and the speed of the Internet. As a result, the country is creating good conditions for the development of new and future-oriented business models.
- In addition, Chile has become the ideal environment for clean energy like wind and solar energy, such as the production of green hydrogen, placing itself as an attractive country for investors and the development of new business models.
In what way are your selected startups reflecting the best aspects of Chile’s growing startup scene?
The Chilean start-ups, just like the big companies, are looking for answers to the great challenges of our world today and in this context this year the focus on solutions that deal with the environmental issues
In this way, the selected startups are reflecting this aspect and offering solutions by collecting data in a wide variety of ways and using computer programs and artificial intelligence to predict occurrences and help companies become more sustainable.
What do you think makes startups successful in the international market?
First of all, the startup should be established and successful in the local market before thinking about an international expansion.
Furthermore, it's important that the startup has developed a scalable business model with an international approach.
In addition, it is vital also to understand and to know the culture and its differences where your new market is located.
And it is very helpful to find an experienced local partner with proven expertise in the market you are targeting, and the startup should define and monitor its KPIs.
What are Chile’s startups most keen on in Germany and this tour?
The German market is one of the most popular European economies and the region of North Rhine-Westphalia, as a leading economic region, is generally very attractive for the expansion of foreign start-ups. Most of the interest of the Chilean startups lies in getting to know potential investors and partners, who make it easier for them to enter the German market.
In todays interview we had the pleasure to talk with Mrs. Silvia Braghini from AHK Italy. She is Project Manager for Market & Business Development in Milan and shares with us her thoughts about the Italian startup landscape and what part the AHK Italy is playing in this ecosystem.
Mrs. Braghini, what role is the AHK playing in Italy's startup scene?
The AHK Italy has been working on establishing its presence in the Italian Innovation ecosystem for several years by now. The partnership with some of the most influent Innovation facilitators and players across Italy, among all universities, accelerators, incubators, hubs, research centers and banks that support accelerator programs and invest on startups, gives the AHK Italy the possibility to experience the innovative pulse of Italy and in several occasions also to be part of it.
Given the strong pragmatical approach of our Chamber of Commerce our main goal in this context is to connect the world of industry with the innovative world and in this sense, we try to create concrete business opportunities for the Italian startups and to connect them with potential business partners, through different initiatives and partnerships, but mainly thanks to our own start-up contest “Business Meets Innovation”.
How are startups changing the economic landscape in Italy? Are there regional differences between the scenes from Milan to Campania?
The Italian economic system nowadays demands more and more to reinforce the collaboration between SMEs enterprises and big companies and to connect the world of research and development with the industry. A big part of the measures of PNRR, Piano Nazionale di Ripresa e Resilienza (the NRRP, National Recovery and Resilience Plan) is dedicated to accomplishing these goals and one of the main drivers are startups.
In the past few years the concept of generating innovation through a Bottom-Up approach has been attracting many Italian companies and institutions and is allowing them to rethink their business models and their priorities for the future.
The main innovation areas in Italy can be found in the most industrialized and progressive regions of the country; the most significant areas are the following: Lombardy, particularly in the surroundings of Milan, Emilia Romagna, Piedmont, and Veneto. However, in the last years there has been a considerable increase of awareness of the startup ecosystems in the South of Italy, especially in the regions of Lazio, Campania, Tuscany, and Apulia. These regional ecosystems arise for the most part from renowned University Hubs (respectively Politecnico di Milano, Università di Bologna, Politecnico di Torino, Università degli Studi di Padova, Università degli Studi la Sapienza, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II and Politecnico di Bari) and are based on the research departments of the universities. They develop their expertise and are the basis for the creation of new business ideas and solutions. Beside that these regions and innovative centers are supported by some very solid incubators and accelerators, as Polihub and ComoNExt (Lombardy), Lazioinnova (Lazio), 012factory (Campania), Almacube (Emilia Romagna), i3p (Piedmont).
What makes Germany so attractive as a destination for Italian startups?
Given their expertise and approaches, as German-Italian Chamber of Commerce, we can say that the combination und exchange in between German and Italian companies are in practically any sector a pretty good match, or even better to say, they are often quite complementary.
In the innovative sector the Italian talents are attracted by the German economic system, due to its solidity, progressive commitment, dedication to research and development activities and pragmatic approach.
The only fact that Germany is divided into regional innovative Clusters, based on their focus field, makes it easier for the Italian startups to find their way around and creates a solid base of trust, in order to establish the Italian expertise in Germany.
What piece of advice would you give to your startups participating in the tour?
To our Italian participating startups, I would say that they have the important mission to show the German investors of the Ruhr region what drives Innovation in Italy and why it’s worth it to explore our ecosystem and to support it!
Moreover, I would recommend them to present a clear purpose of their solutions and a concrete business model, but yet to maintain the creative and flexible marks that characterize any Italian entrepreneur. This is definitely the key for our Italian startups to establish their presence and to succeed in Germany and worldwide.
A sector report about Germany's industrial heartland North Rhine-Westphalia
The industrial revolution transformed Germany in the late 18th century from a predominately agrarian society into the economic powerhouse in Europe. The seed for this rapid metamorphosis was planted in the coal rich regions of the Ruhr and Rhine, modern North Rhine-Westphalia. Till this day, the landscape of NRW is dominated by its industrial history. Facing ever stiffer competition globally as well as further challenges, NRW is determined to revolutionize and vitalize its industry, actively placing itself at the forefront of technological innovation for industrial solutions.
Facts & Figures
Today, with its nearly 18 million inhabitants, nearly one in five people of workforce, roughly 1.2 million people, in NRW is currently working in the industrial sector, mainly as mechanical engineers. In 2020, the industry generated roughly 320 billion euros in sales alone. That is 18% of Germany’s industrial sales concentrated solely in one single state. Furthermore, with its 710,000 SMEs, the German “Mittelstand” is still the backbone of the region’s economic force, contributing to more than 20% of Germany’s GDP. In addition, one in four market champions or hidden champion is at home in NRW, which further underscores the state’s economic strength.
But besides the classical industry actors and fields, NRW is also home to innovation which is greatly appreciated by the local industry. For instance, already 25,000 ICT companies have settled in NRW, generating nearly a third of all ICT generated revenue in Germany, totaling over 103 billion euros. Going even beyond that, NRW has already attracted 20% of all startups active in Germany, supplying even more radical innovation to the local industry, allowing local businesses to fully harness the practical insights and modernizations associated with the startup scene.
One example of such radical innovation is the nano-technology sector. Already 22% of Germany’s nanotech firms have set-up a business in NRW as well as 28% of all microsystems and technology companies.
Pioneering Germany's Industry 4.0
NRW is offering immense opportunities for any company and startup that is seeking to contribute to innovative industrial solutions and making the fourth industrial revolution not only a reality but also a success story. Being the industrial core of the continent and Germany, NRW is home to a truly broad industrial customer base from chemistry to machine manufacturing to electronics and electrotechnology, NRW has it all. Hence, there will be a niche for everyone to drive forward and build up owns company. Going even beyond the potential German industrial customer base in NRW, the state also offers quick access to over 160 million people in 500km radius, possessing roughly 3.5 billion euros in purchasing power.
In addition to its industrial advantages, NRW has plenty more to offer such as its leading research and education institutions. The former provide the perfect fertile ground for young and innovative companies to test and further improve their ideas, benefiting from the exchange between academic insights and practical needs and applications. These research institutions include, above all, the Fraunhofer Institutes such as Fraunhofer FIT or the Centrum Industrial IT (CIIT e. V.). Currently, there are over 780,000 students in NRW, studying at one of the 68 universities in the region such as the TU Dortmund, Ruhr University of Bochum or the RWTH Aachen. Roughly 27% of these students are attending classes and programs at technical colleges, guaranteeing a talented and well-educated workforce. Thus, it is little to no surprise that NRW is already leading in language modes research and quantum machine learning. Going even further, NRW is soon to be the home to Europe’s fastest computer, based on exascale computing, enabling faster and more accurate processing and numerous applications for forecasting models.
Pushing and facilitating the transformation of its industry and cities in the digital age, NRW is keen on rolling out flagships and other initiatives to foster innovation. One player in the region that is dedicated to harnessing the advancement of artificial intelligence is KI.NRW. Working together with local stakeholders from politics to civil society, companies, and academia, KI.NRW is actively applying AI. One such program is the application of AI to hospitals or mobility, transforming not only the industries, but also creating smart cities.
Ecosystem Industrial Solutions
To foster innovation and to provide startups with a suitable growth environment, NRW has launched many clusters and hubs to improve the region for young entrepreneurs. Some of these hubs are the DigitalHUB Aachen, Digihub Düsseldorf or the digital Hub münsterLand. All of which are dedicated to help young companies to network and provide access to key stakeholders in the region. Next to the hubs are the clusters. Based on the industry and technology, these clusters can vary. For instance, the blockchain technology has four distinct clusters in NRW, one in Aachen, due to the RWTH Aachen as well as in the cities of Dortmund, Essen, Cologne and Bonn. One player and facilitator on blockchain is the Blockchain Reallabor, building up a European blockchain institute in NRW to conduct research and practical application for the technology in the industry and logistics.
Another prime example of the great ecosystem are the co-operations between businesses and research in the state is the technology network “it’s OWL” (focusing on the region of Ostwestfalen-Lippe). Founded by government support as a technology network in 2012, “it’s OWL” has realized over 47 projects worth 100 million euros already and is currently planning to double the funding to 200 million euros over the next rounds of projects. One flagship project is the building of a smart factory with the Fraunhofer IOSB-INA, allowing for the testing of automatization and digital applications to the production processes. In its next round of projects, the “it’s OWL” is dedicated to further explore the potential for AI in optimizing and enhancing industrial manufacturing. These factors have greatly contributed to settling advanced industries and innovators in NRW. Furthermore, Dortmund, one of the urban centers of NRW, has been transformed to Europe’s biggest micro-tech cluster, employing over 2,200 employees among 40 companies in the industrial sector.
For any company, but especially for international ones seeking to expand or settle in new markets, reliable partners are key. Luckily, NRW provides such networks of great partners, sharing their access, resources, and insights with their respective networks. In the area of funding, NRW’s most trusted source of finance is the NRW.BANK, providing low-interest loans to both startups and SMEs north of 10 million euros as well as seeding capital for young founders. One dedicated program by the NRW.BANK is the “NRW.BANK.Digitalisierung und Innovation” program. As previously mentioned, one key partner is the “it’s OWL” in the industrial solutions sector, raising their funding capacity up to 200 million euros for future projects. Another source of funding, although at a smaller rate offers the “regional economic promotion” programs (RWP) in NRW, seeking to vitalize urban economies by allocating cash grants to businesses. Other partners are also participating in the Start.up! Germany Tour such as NRW.Global Business, the federal investment agency of the state. Or the Institute for Digital Future Technologies e.V., seeking to raise awareness and provide key access to an extensive network of potential customers and partners in NRW. And last but most certainly not least, there is the network of local chambers of industry and commerce (IHK) in Germany. The chambers, such as the ones organizing and participating in the tour are vital business partners in Germany, offering a wide array of services and advice for their local businesses, reaching even to the political centers in Berlin and Brussels.
If you want to hear more about this excting sector feel free to rewatch our corresponding webinar here:
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:
A sector report about Germany's logistics hotspot North Rhine-Westphalia
Although it is a well-known fact that all roads lead to Rome, it is little known that most of them will eventually passing through North Rhine Westphalia (NRW). As the most populous state in Germany, sharing borders with France, Belgium and the Netherlands and a booming economy, NRW is truly the beating heart of Europe. Located in the center of Europe and equipped with an outstanding infrastructure network, NRW is the prime location to serve a wide range of customers and businesses across the continent. Due to these factors, already 19 out of the 50 top-selling companies are located within the state as well as 9 of the 25 leading logistics firms such as DHL, UPS and FedEx. Hence, making NRW a booming and vital target for the logistics & mobility sector.
Facts & Figures
As already mentioned, NRW with its 17.7 million inhabitants is most populous state in Germany, but also more densely populated than Japan our its direct neighbor, The Netherlands. Besides its respective amount of potential local costumers, with private consumption totaling 383 billion euros, NRW offers access to 160 million potential customers within a 500 kilometers radius equivalent of nearly a third of all European customers. In addition, all mayor metropolitan areas and cities are in reach of a three-hour flight, providing ample opportunities to expand operations within Germany and across Europe. Moreover, generating an overall trading volume north of 400 billion euros, NRW is an undisputed economic powerhouse offering plenty opportunities in the B2B sector. Besides the heavyweights among the logistics companies such as Amazon, Deutsche Post, 3M, FedEx or Zalando, NRW is home to 24,000 logistics companies, a quarter of all logistics companies in Germany, employing over 388,000 people and generating 72,7 billion euros revenues in 2017. However, due to its rich industrial history, many industrial, manufacturing and chemical companies operate their own logistics, contributing to 773,000 employees total in the logistics and mobility sector. Thus, logistics remains a key contributor and essential sector to NRW’s economy, employing roughly 10% of the workforce. With growing demand and new opportunities, the logistics and mobility sector are also crucial drivers in new projects, taking advantage of the industrial and commercial spaces in NRW. Despite the negative impacts inflicted by the global pandemic, 50 new projects have launched in the region, expanding existing as well as constructing new logistic hubs on 1 million m² land with firms in the e-commerce sector such as Picnic leading the charge.
Europe's heartbeat (NRW advantages)
The key for NRW’s success in the logistics and mobility sector are its geographic advantages over other regions in Germany or Europe as well as its significant infrastructure network. Being situated at the intersection between the two Hanseatic ports of Hamburg and Bremen, as well as the Belgian ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp, NRW enjoys privileged access to the mayor ports in Europe and the world. Additionally, with 240 kilometers of the Rhine, NRW boasts 120 ports of its own, offering more than 720 kilometers of waterways and canals available to shipping. Further, both Germany’s largest inland port, duisport, and canal port Dortmund are in the region. Duisport is managing roughly 42 million of the 106 million tones cargo being transported via water in NRW annually.
Moreover, the region offers a highly sophisticated infrastructure network of 29,500 kilometers roads, 2,200 kilometers of which are highways serving 57,000 vehicles daily, as well as over 6,000 kilometers rails, creating not only reliable links with the urban hubs of the region, but alterative access to the ports such as the Betuwe freight rail to Rotterdam. Going even beyond Europe, NRW’s capital Dusseldorf as well as the City of Duisburg are key locations among the Belt and Road Initiative by China, bridging the vast distance between Asia and Germany with 35 cargo trains carrying over 100,000 containers from Chengdu and Chongqing into the heart of Europe and vis versa. Besides the impressive rail, road and canal system, NRW also offers six airports, two international and four intra-European ones, enabling companies to reach all mayor cities in Europe and establish or intensify links to all important markets in Europe.
In addition to its natural advantages and impressive infrastructure network, NRW also offers great spaces for the logistics and mobility sector, providing over 205 hectares of available space for new commercial zones. Further, the government and ministries in NRW are key partners in these projects, actively supporting new and existing businesses. For instance, the state was instrumental in realizing the newPark projects on Datteln, Waltrop and Gelsenkirchen, as well as commercial parks and zones targeting smaller and medium sized companies in the Rhine-Ruhr region.
Next to the space, NRW offers great scientific and research institutions, fostering innovation and a highly qualified talent pool in the region. For instance, the universities RWTH Aachen, TU Dortmund, Neuss University of Applied Sciences, universities of Duisburg-Essen, TU Cologne are training their students in various areas of logistics. Moreover, besides guaranteeing a steady supply of well-trained talents in the region, many of these institutions have launched their own logistic research facilities in cooperation with companies, aiming to revolutionize the logistics and mobility sector. One of such research institutions is the Effizienz Cluster Logistik Ruhr, funded by the state as well as business collaborations, the goal of the Cluster is the successful development and implementation of automatization and robotics to logistics, harnessing the advantages of the industry 4.0. Another great project, supporting businesses in the sector is SE Silicon Economy and the Open Logistic Foundation, introducing the concepts of the platform economy to logistics and mobility, mainly applied in the B2B aspects, all in on an open-source software, allowing both large and small companies to harness the advantages.
Ecoystem Logistics & Mobility
Based on the above-mentioned advantages, NRW is home to a fantastic ecosystem in the logistics and mobility sector for both established companies seeking to innovate themselves as well as startups seeking to revolutionize and disrupt the sector with novel ideas and approaches. Next to the before-mentioned research institutions and flagships such as SE Silicon Economy or Leistungszentrum Logistik und IT, there are many more key players and opportunities in the ecosystem. For instance, one the crucial drivers in the sector, serving as competence centers are the Fraunhofer institutes, such as Fraunhofer IML, Fraunhofer ISST, realizing projects, such as fully automated warehouses, replacing the traditional conveyor belts with decentral controlled robots. Targeting startups there are many great support opportunities such as the Exzellenz Start-up Centers NRW, facilitating the transfer from theoretical and academic insights to the business reality. The centers are being currently funded with 116 million euros to support young entrepreneurs setting up their startups in the region. Another one is the start2grow initiative in NRW and Dortmund, providing active support and funding, as well as networking and awards for young startups.
startport - Acceleration support at its best
One element vital for young startups are the accelerators, assisting the fresh entrepreneurs to advance their businesses and groundbreaking ideas. NRW offers such accelerators in its ecosystem. One prime example is startport. Located at the pulse of logistics in the region, the harbor at Duisburg, startport and its young entrepreneurs are harnessing technology to create true value by innovations. Based on their already extensive network, they offer startups many benefits, such as matchmaking with potential customers, active support through coaching and projects, as well as flexible office space and access to many venture capital funds and business angels. Together with the Start.up! Germany Tour, they supported ANT Machines’ founder Vitaly Chukanov to settle in Dortmund. Accordingly, Vitaly drew a positive conclusion after the tour: “It’s a good way for every startup that wants to raise awareness about its product or idea. (…) For us, the Start.up! Germany Tour was a great experience in terms of pitching to different audiences. It helped us gain many insights because we received feedback from a large number of different companies and institutions. That was really valuable and relevant for us, a great addition to winning the third place.”
For more established companies, there are further opportunities to access the immense pool of talent, expertise and innovation generated in the field. Tailored to SME’s there are the project Digital in NRW: Kompetenz für den Mittelstand, Mittelstand Digital Zentrum Ruhr-OWL, Start-In Factory Dortmund or the TU Concept GmbH. All of these are seeking to assist SMEs in the current challenges of increasing digitalization and transformations in the industry. To do so, all of them are providing tested insights from previous cooperation projects as well as setting up networks for companies to exchange best practices and learn from each other. For even larger companies, there is also an abundance of potential enterprise labs, offering breakthroughs and practical applications from scientific research. Again, a key player in this field is the Fraunhofer institute, cooperating with for instance the Dachser-Network to create Dachser Enterprise Lab, applying AI to the needs of the companies. Similarly, the DB Schenker Enterprise Lab, in cooperation with Fraunhofer, is aiming to revolutionize the logistics industry, generating insights on the applicability of research to practice. Ultimately, striving to develop the next generation of logistic products and business models.
Reliable Partners for the Future
In addition to the significant advantages and friendly ecosystem, NRW prides itself to not only having the best conditions for young innovators and entrepreneurs in the logistics and mobility sector, but also some of the greatest networks and partners such as the mentioned startport. From the government and public sector side, there are the Ministry for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy, as well as the local Chambers of Commerce and Industry that are partnering up to bring together the greatest minds through initiatives such as the Start.up! Germany Tour.
In addition to partnering up with many other players and networks, the state also offers small grants in support for startups. Another public sector partner is the NRW.BANK, providing multiple programs for companies to gain access to capital. For instance, the NRW.SeedCap offers an additional capital with 100,000 euros in the first round as well as potentially an additional 100,000 euros in the second round of capital raising. Targeting SMEs, the bank also launched the program, NRW.Venture, offering to acquire shares worth of 10 million euros for young and dynamic companies.
Another potential partner, specifically for companies and young firms in the logistics sector, is the “e-port Dortmund” - the Center of Foundation and Competence for logistics and IT. E-port Dortmund offers support in settling new companies and startups in Dortmund with direct access to the canal port. They offer renting spaces, networking opportunities and events such as the 3rd Wednesday of each month, each quarter. In addition to their support, the center also hosts a tailored award for small startups in Dortmund, the “Innovative Logistik Award”, promising free rent for one year and further exposure in the local startup scene.
Similarly, NRW.Global Business is actively supporting the businesses and region of NRW, seeking to raise awareness and investments into the local economy. In doing so, NRW.Global Business helps companies, also from abroad, to settle here in NRW, entering the market as well as expanding access to new and dynamic growth ones. Having already attracted more than 20,000 international companies to Europe’s beating heart, NRW.Gobal Business has a proven track record and is a reliable partner, assisting every company to invest into NRW or gain access and harness the advantages of its vast network.
If you want to hear more about this excting sector feel free to rewatch our corresponding webinar here:
Dominik Stute and Nick Neidl, both one of the main organizers of the Start.up! Germany Tour have been invited to the podcast series „Memberbytes” by the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce (AHK Malaysia) to talk about the Rhine-Ruhr Area and the Start.up! Germany Tour.
The podcast series of the Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce usually features interviews with business people about Malaysia, Germany and the business in Asia.
In episode 17, Sebastian Kirsch, Manager Member Support by AHK Malaysia talked with Dominik Stute and Nick Neidl about the industrial heartland of Germany – the Rhine-Ruhr region – and furthermore about the Start.up! Germany Tour, which brings international startups from around the world to North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany and show them the benefits of this driving location.
But best listen for yourself.
Here: https://themgccpodcast.buzzsprout.com/723699/10758345-memberbytes-017-dominik-stute-nick-neidl-startup-germany-tour-ihk-dortmund or just click on the “Spotify” button on the left hand corner.
Startup MedApp from Krakow to North Rhine-Westphalia
MedApp S.A. a Polish medtech startup that was founded in Krakow, Poland is now expanding its business to Dusseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia and from there to the DACH region. As a former startup participant of our Start.up! Germany Tour 2021, MedApp took part in the several program parts of the Start.up! Germany Tour like the pre-program, the Inter.national! Startup Contest and has been among the 15 finalists of the Grand Final of the Start.up! Germany Tour 2021 during the main program.
With this impulse through the tour and the intensive further support of our partner organization NRW.Global Business, MedApp has established a German subsidiary in Dusseldorf. Together with the CEO of MedApp S.A. Krzysztof Mędrala, we talked about its Start.up! Germany Tour experience and about its settlement to NRW.
Dear Krzysztof, tell us about your Start.up! Germany Tour (SUGT) experience?
Hello everybody! At the Start.up! Germany Tour’s Grand Final we as MedApp experienced a fantastic atmosphere with lots of excellent organized meetings afterwards. The overall international environment of SUGT was inspiring and without doubt a worth attending experience.
Why did you participate in SUGT? What have been your goals? Why Germany?
As the selected startup from Poland, we have been invited to take part in the on-site experience of SUGT. This was a true award for us, especially as the German market is a natural place of geographical expansion for us.
How did it go after the SUGT experience with MedApp? And a settlement?
The strategy entering the German market has been on our mind for some time already. The attendance of meetings with certain people and institutions afterwards finally motivated us to set up a company, MedApp Germany in Dusseldorf, and to search for first local employees.
What was the idea of an employment in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany for the MedApp?
Our international business plan includes offering our innovative technologies in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) and our new Dusseldorf office would serve as a crucial point for the region. When we see the commitment of the Start.up! Germany Tour community, we believe this was the right decision to set up a company in Germany. Far-reaching growth prospects for our technologies in Germany are ahead of us!
Based on your experience, what can you recommend to other startups that want to do business in Germany?
It is worth attending local events and meetings to better understand the market and its opportunities. Finding partners and local business leaders would play a key role to enter the German business ecosystem which should facilitate business growth. I would play a key role to enter the German business ecosystem, which should facilitate business growth. I would also propose to search for national organizations that support expansion abroad like NRW.Global Business or the Chambers of Industry and Commerce.