Ready. Steady. Grow. - Member Story with NRW.Global Business GmbH

In this interview, Felix Neugart, CEO, explains how NRW.Global Business is an international business portal for one of the largest economic regional powerhouses within Germany
Photo Copyright: NRW.Global Business GmbH

How does NRW.Global Business help to connect companies and businesses around the globe? 

NRW.Global Business is the trade and investment agency of Germany’s economic powerhouse: the state of North Rhine-Westphalia – or in short NRW. We offer tailor-made services for all companies when it comes to developing growth markets abroad and we support international investment projects in NRW. NRW.Global Business has been established in late 2020 as a result of the merger of two previous companies NRW.Invest and NRW.International .  

Today, we combine all aspects of international trade promotion under the same roof: On the one hand, we accompany international companies in their investment projects and settlement in NRW from the initial contact to successful completion and beyond. We provide them with expert knowledge on tax and legal aspects, suitable locations etc. and connect them to useful networks from business, science, politics and administration. 

On the other hand, we support our local companies in NRW when it comes to expanding their business abroad with various trade promotion activities like participation in trade fairs abroad or trade missions focused on aa specific sector or market. 

Our customers benefit from our international network. With 17 international offices, NRW.Global Business is represented in future markets around the globe. In the U.S., we have three offices in Chicago, the Silicon Valley and in Atlanta, our latest addition since late 2021. We have decided to be present in the Atlanta metropolitan area in order to intensify economic relations with this ‘growth engine’ in the U.S. Southeast. Actually, we see a lot of potential there for both sides and currently focus our activities in particular on tech sectors such as cyber security, FinTech or IoT, with biotechnology and of course the logistics industry also playing an important role. 

What does NRW.Global Business offer to their North Rhine-Westphalian clients in the future in order to open up new markets and network with international business partners? 

NRW.Global Business supports NRW companies in opening up international markets – from startups to SMEs. Together with our partners, we develop trade promotion activities that are tailored to their requirements. For example, trade fairs abroad offer perfect access to new markets and a broad professional audience. We help companies to present their products and services here in the best possible way – with joint NRW pavilions, information service centers or with special support for small groups. An upcoming possibility to explore the U.S. target market will be our participation in the BIO International Convention (BIO) trade fair in San Diego in June 2022. NRW companies from the biotech, pharma and related sectors are invited to join us there to present their products and to look for market development opportunities.  

If companies are interested in more detailed insights into a certain growth market or industry, we also offer special corporate trips with targeted network and matchmaking opportunities. For example, in Q3 2022 we are planning an innovation trip to the Silicon Valley to give NRW companies the possibility of getting to know the local ecosystem and sounding out chances to expand their international business. However, from the last two years in the pandemic we have all learned that any travel plans can evaporate quickly – that’s why we try to combine virtual, hybrid and physical elements from the outset in all our projects so that we can flexibly adapt to the current circumstances.  

North Rhine-Westphalia is considered a stronghold for German industry. What are the current challenges – and opportunities – for the region? 

For a long time, the NRW economy has traditionally been characterized by heavy industries like mining, iron and steel production. But we all know that today, NRW has long grown beyond this point. 

NRW is a diverse business location that offers optimal conditions for growth – not only for local but also for international companies. They all appreciate the central location in the middle of Europe and the size of the market. We are Germany's most populous federal state, around 160 million people live within a 500-kilometer radius of Düsseldorf. That is almost a third of all consumers in the EU.  

In addition, NRW scores with strong industrial structures. We have large, world-class industrial companies as well as numerous SMEs that are leaders in their fields of business – augmented by a growing startup ecosystem. Not to forget the strong university landscape in NRW which does not only cover an extensive range of innovative research but also secures a large pool of well-trained specialists. 

Nevertheless, topics like structural change, energy transition or the reduction of carbon footprints with all their consequences pose challenges for our businesses in NRW – especially in areas like the Ruhr region or the so called “Rheinisches Revier”. We are in the middle of a huge transition process which will open up enormous potential to reinvent our region. Today, NRW has grown into a highly innovative, future-oriented location with an excellent university and research landscape, a lively startup scene as well as numerous global players and SMEs who push forward topics such as digitization or renewable energies. Companies and research institutes work hand in hand on future topics like smart manufacturing, new mobility solutions, green hydrogen, artificial intelligence, cyber security or aerospace technology. With the help of all these innovations, NRW aims to become the most modern and sustainable industrial location in Europe.  

Can you give us any insights to the trends in terms of investment or projects that have become prevalent in the last two years and moving forward? 

The U.S. is among the most important investor countries and a true job motor in NRW. Nearly 1,500 U.S. companies are based here having created more than 220,000 jobs – including big names like 3M, Ford, UPS or Amazon. They all value NRW as a bridge into the European market. On the other hand, American companies are drivers of innovation and a huge benefit to our ecosystem here in NRW. 

In the last few years, American interest to do business in NRW has remained constantly high. Especially, requests from startups have grown significantly and we have increased exchange with the economic development agencies of individual states like Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Colorado with regard to cooperation. When it comes to sectors, the focus is on high tech, medical technology, smart manufacturing and cyber applications as well as energy technology.  

For example, last year, the U.S. hydrogen and fuel cell specialist Plug Power has decided to locate its European headquarters in Duisburg including the establishment of an innovation center with engineering labs, a monitoring, diagnostics and technical support center and a green hydrogen generator with an electrolyzer infrastructure on site. Hydrogen is a key enabler for the climate friendly transformation of our industry as well the transportation sector and we are very pleased to have been able to win Plug Power with such pioneering technology for our location. The company will benefit not only from a broad customer base but also from an innovative research environment here.  

Another settlement highlight from 2021 is the video conferencing service Zoom which has experienced an immense growth during the pandemic and will have its German headquarters in Cologne. In addition, a rather traditional industry like the logistics sector still plays an important role among current investment projects. Levi Strauss is building one of the largest logistics hubs in Europe for its fashion articles and accessories in Dorsten putting a special focus on recycling, conserving resources and reducing waste. 

For more detailed information please contact:

Thomas Henneberg

Manager, Head of Membership Engagement & Events

Henneberg