According to the results of the Ruhr innovation report, which was jointly published on 23rd April 2020 by the RAG-Stiftung, Essen/Germany, and the German Startups Association, Berlin, the Ruhr – Germany’s largest metropolitan area – offers huge opportunities for start-ups and innovative business models. However, the current COVID-19 crisis is hitting these start-ups particularly hard.
For this reason, a document presenting the challenges surrounding the COVID-19 crisis in detail and relating them to the region’s capabilities was published alongside the Ruhr innovation report. Specific challenges and opportunities for the Ruhr region can be identified in four main areas:
- More intensive support for start-ups required: E. g., the cities of Duisburg, Bochum, Essen and Dortmund have an above-average number of start-ups. Nevertheless, the Ruhr region as a whole still falls short of expectations as a metropolitan area – especially in comparison to start-up hotspots such as Berlin and Munich. Particularly in view of the current crisis, special attention should therefore be paid to even more intensive support for start-ups.
- Great potential in the B2B sector: As a metropolitan region, the Ruhr opens up huge market opportunities for start-ups. In particular, the potential in the business customer (B2B) sector is estimated to be very high due to the large number of SMEs and large companies. In the current situation, it is particularly important that innovative projects are not postponed, but rather that established companies support start-ups in the difficult phase in order to work together with them to ensure their own sustainability.
- Especially intensive university and research landscape: The Ruhr region has the best conditions for creating innovations due to its extensive, closely linked university and research landscape. Its particular strength in the fields of IT and engineering is already reflected in the founding teams and business models. This high level of industrial and digital expertise is an important prerequisite for getting back on track quickly after the crisis.
- Cybersecurity demonstrates best practice: The development of sector-specific clusters at the interfaces between universities, the established economy and start-ups is particularly promising. In this regard, the cybersecurity sector is demonstrating absolute best practice. Due to investors’ current hesitation, start-ups with outstanding financing rounds are particularly at risk. Continuing to promote this cluster, despite the crisis, is essential for the development and international visibility of the Ruhr region as an innovation location.
Bernd Tönjes, Chairman of the Board of Executives for RAG-Stiftung, says: “We have known how important innovation is for a functioning and vital economy for a long time – not only since the COVID-19 crisis began. This makes it all the more important now to maintain our innovative ability. Our start-ups and young founders are currently being put through a tough test. With the Ruhr innovation report, we would like to highlight the strengths and potential of our start-up landscape in order to be able to build on this after the crisis.”
Christian Miele, President of the German Startups Association, says: “When top international investors think of Germany, they still think about the Ruhr region far too rarely – that must and will change. After all, our report shows the region’s huge potential with regard to start-ups and innovation. Now the local players – SMEs, corporations, universities and start-ups – must sit down at one table, further develop their strengths and move forward with communicative self-confidence. This applies all the more in a crisis. We are working flat out, especially in this phase, to make politicians and society aware of the importance of the start-up ecosystem in order to jointly set the course for the future.” (RAG-Stiftung/Si.)