NRW - Life science

NRW - Life science

NRW is located in the middle of Europe and is the most populous and one of the most densely populated of the 16 federal states of Germany. The most important metropolitan area is the Rhine-Ruhr area with more than 10 million inhabitants. The cluster policy of the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia promoted the cooperation of companies, research institutions and the public sector along value chains in the most important sectors and technology fields.

NRW - Business location figures

Main facts about NRW as a business location

  • 18 million inhabitants (21,5% of Germany)
  • 710,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (KMUs)
  • every fourth market leader comes from North Rhine-Westphalia
  • In 2022, 20.5% of the gross domestic product was generated in NRW with € 793.8 billion

Detailed facts about NRW as a location for life science

10. 8% of the total German turnover of the biotechnology industry is generated here by 118 core biotechnology companies with more than 5,780 employees. In addition, NRW has the largest number of biotechnological patent applications in Europe.

More than 500 life science companies, including 118 with a proven focus on biotechnology, mark the country as a leading innovation centre in Europe.

NRW also has the highest density of scientific and top research institutions in Germany. The scientific landscape in the field of biotechnology in NRW comprises 56 universities and non-university research institutions.

In the academic year of 2019/2020 40% of the students in NRW studied one of the STEM subjects (natural sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics). In the field of biotechnology, students can specialize in cell biology, (bio) medicine, biochemistry, genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, molecular biology, systems and synthetic biology, analytics/ microsystems, bioinformatics, and process engineering.

In addition, 14 Clusters of Excellence in Germany are funded in NRW. Among them are five that deal with topics in the field of the bioeconomy or life sciences. In addition to the highest density of universities in Germany, the four major German research organizations (the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association, and the Max Planck Society) operate here.

NRW as a business location for the life sciences

Fixed elements of NRW corporate landscape are internationally established giants such as the biotechnology companies Qiagen and Miltenyi Biotec or Bayer, UCB, Henkel and Evonik Industries from the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. In addition to these global players, NRW is home to dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) such as AiCuris, Biofrontera, Paion, Sartorius Xell, ProtaGene, Lead Discovery Center, Taros Chemicals, Chimera Biotec and many others. 

Large companies and SMEs are complemented by numerous young start-ups such as Numaferm, Priavoid, b. fab, SenseUp, Bex-Biotec: this small selection shows the innovative power of North Rhine-Westphalia as a biotechnology location.

NRW - Growth-promoting environment

Founders have many opportunities to exchange ideas with like-minded people and potential business and cooperation partners. Numerous advisory services and accelerator programs in NRW offer support. 

Here are just a few of the offers in NRW:


BIO. NRW is a central catalyst for the sustainable development of the strengths of North Rhine-Westphalian biotechnology and bioeconomy. The key aspects of BIO. NRW are: Effective network for scientists, founders and entrepreneurs, Central platform for life science topics, promotion of students and young talents, and support for start-ups and SMEs in financing and internationalization.


Service association with international standards

BioIndustry e.V. is a networked and integrated service cluster of companies, research facilities, training and further education institutions, technology centers, biotechnological service companies and municipal economic development agencies with a focus on the Ruhr region and Westphalia.


MedEcon Ruhr is the network of the healthcare industry in Germany's largest conurbation, the Ruhr healthcare metropolis.

More than 170 companies and institutions from the hospital industry, healthcare and healthcare research as well as the supplying industries are connected through their membership in MedEcon Ruhr association.


On behalf of the EU, the federal government and the state, Zenit, with more than 60 employees, supports small and medium-sized technology-oriented companies in their innovation and internationalization activities and brings together potential partners from industry and science. But start-ups, fast-growing and large companies are also part of our customer base. Technology and knowledge-based start-ups are important drivers of innovation in the digital transformation, life science and circular economy. ZENIT provides support in the areas of market access, business model validation, financing, human resources and internationalization. Topics that the start-up team at ZENIT has competently covered for many years. For start-ups that want to establish new ideas and innovations in the market, the team offers a variety of tools and methods.

Innovation competition “Gesünder.IN.NRW”

The innovation competition “Gesünder.IN.NRW” focuses on funding innovative solutions in the knowledge- and research-intensive fields of cutting-edge medicine, medical engineering, life sciences, nutritional science, and pharmacy. The aim is to promote a climate-friendly, environmentally friendly, and resource-conserving health care and health economy in NRW. 

Funding is provided for research, innovation, and development projects with a focus on three priority topics, including innovative medicine and life sciences, health, and nutrition. Creative concepts and ideas are being sought that provide disease prevention solutions and new treatment options – using digitalization and biotechnology tools as important key and interdisciplinary technologies.

Many of today's successful young biotechnology companies started out as university spin-offs. NRW has numerous technology and start-up centers, some with different focal points. A total of 155 biotech and life science companies are currently located in 22 of them.

These “incubators” for start-up companies are usually located near research institutions and aim to provide an efficient infrastructure for the transfer of scientific know-how into marketable products and processes. Just to name some of them: BioMedizinZentrumDortmund, LSC-LifeScienceCenter Düsseldorf, BioCampus Cologne, Pharma- und Chemiepark Wuppertal or BioZ-Biotechnologiezentrum Münster.

“Next to the major players, it’s especially the start-ups and SMEs that develop new processes and products to help shape and manage the resource transformation. This in turn contributes to North Rhine-Westphalia’s continuing success as a leading industrial region.” (Mona Neubaur, Minister for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia)

NRW as a place for life science start-ups

NRW is the right location for any company, but especially for international companies that want to expand or establish themselves in new markets.

The location has a network of great partners who share their access, resources and knowledge in their respective networks. When it comes to financing, NRW.BANK is one trusted source of funding in NRW. 

In addition to the strong chemical and pharmaceutical industries, numerous successful start-ups and spin-off companies thrive in NRW. This entrepreneurial excellence is supported by the densest network of academic institutions in Europe. 

To promote start-ups from universities, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Climate Protection and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia supports the Exzellenz-Gründerzentrum.NRW. The initiative aims to strengthen the start-up culture and thus improve technology transfer. Six universities receive 150 million euros in funding over five years, just as the Center für Entrepreneurship & Transfer in Dortmund.

In addition to that there is a rich and solid funding environment to support and promote the industry, including venture capitalists and business development agencies. North Rhine-Westphalia is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for startup financing! According to the EY Startup Barometer Germany from July 2023 (EY Startup - EY Startup-Barometer Germany – July 2023), NRW ranks third in the number of financing rounds nationwide behind Berlin and Bavaria, with 13% of all financing rounds in Germany taking place in NRW. 

Even more impressive, NRW is one of the few federal states that has increased the number of financing rounds in the first six month of 2023 compared to the previous year. Additionally, in terms of financing volume, NRW ranks a strong fourth behind Berlin, Bavaria, and Hamburg. These figures are a testament to the growing ecosystem for startups in North Rhine-Westphalia and the state's commitment to investing in innovation.

Many start-ups also benefit from the technology or start-up centers in NRW. Business incubators act as a catalyst for economic development and promote the transfer of technology from idea to market. They promote business start-ups and subsequently support them to ensure their survival and growth. The specific services provided by the centers include providing affordable laboratory and office space, arranging business contacts, advising on financing options and providing advice on setting up or relocating a company.

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