Economy and Innovation

Industrie in Brilon

Were it a country in its own rights, North Rhine-Westphalia would thus rank sixth amongst the 27 members of the European Union, ahead of Poland, Sweden, Belgium and others. On a worldwide scale, North Rhine-Westphalia would be Number 19.

North Rhine-Westphalia is home to a multitude of global industrial players, as well as 690 so-called “Hidden Champions”, small but highly successful firms that are world market leaders in their field.  Some 20,000 international companies from the most important investor countries have opted for North Rhine-Westphalia as their German or European headquarters.

North Rhine-Westphalia is an attractive destination for international investors.  As of late 2019, with a share of 23 per cent, North Rhine-Westphalia was the leader amongst Germany’s 16 states in terms of direct and indirect investment in the country.


When it comes to dealing with the challenges posed by the structural changes from coal and steel to innovative products and services, the state has made great strides. North Rhine-Westphalia is home to innovative business corporations, a diverse range of family-owned enterprises and SMEs as well as a very agile service sector. An outstanding research and higher education ‘landscape’ with some 700,000 university students help create the best possible conditions for intense cooperation between the research and business communities


The ‘competence platform’ KI.NRW (the term KI.NRW stands for Artifical Intelligance North Rhine-Westfalia) is a one-stop facility for artificial intelligence in North Rhine-Westphalia, ready to provide businesses with a wide range of support services.

KI.NRW is helping North Rhine-Westphalia evolve as a national leader in applied AI. The idea is for efficient research-to-business transfer as well as upskilling and creation of awareness to help promote AI especially in the SME sector and add some impetus to community dialogue.  KI.NRW is putting people at the centre of the effort to shape artificial intelligence. The platform is run by the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems at Sankt Augustin near Bonn, a European leader in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Industry 4.0

Next to new materials, digitalization is what pushes industry forward. Interconnected processes, digital production and smart logistics are what it takes to develop innovative products across all industries. Widespread introduction of Industry 4.0 is at the centre of the digital revolution. Industry 4.0 refers to smart link-up of production and value chains with information and communication technologies.

North Rhine-Westphalia wants to become a trailblazer for forward-looking and innovative Industry 4.0 solutions and associated lines of business, with an extra focus on support for medium and family-owned enterprises. ‘Competence centres’ and specialised platforms serve as one-stop shops for business clinics, potential surveys, transfer projects and lots more.  Moreover, some of our centres of competence focus on specific issues such as 5G or cyber security.

Very much at the focus is also the creation of a network of innovation players, the exchange of knowledge as well as joint project development.  Specialised clusters such as ‘It’s OWL’ or ‘KI.NRW’ contribute significantly to information activities and the crucial transfer of knowledge.