Country Info: North Rhine-Westphalia

Country Info: North Rhine-Westphalia

North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is the most densely populated of Germany’s 16 federal states.

Thanks to its unique advantages, NRW is also Germany's most important economic region and has been one of the most popular investment locations for foreign companies in Europe for years.

With around 705 billion euros, NRW's 17.9 million inhabitants generate more than a fifth of Germany’s gross domestic product - more than any other federal state. If NRW were a separate country, it would be in 18th place internationally, ahead of Switzerland, Sweden, Poland or Belgium. In 2018, the annual GDP per person averaged at 39,358 euros and per employed person at 73,824 euros.

NRW is located in the very heart of Europe. Over 160 million people with a purchasing power of 3,587,277 million euros live within a radius of 500 kilometers (310 miles) from the state capital Düsseldorf. No other European metropolitan region can offer such purchasing power.

North Rhine-Westphalia is the strongest industrial region in Europe. Every fourth German world market leader comes from NRW. These champions and “hidden champions” come from all areas of the economy. That is not surprising when you look at the North Rhine-Westphalian corporate landscape: 20 of Germany’s 50 top-ranking companies are based in NRW. Well-known global players include:

o Bayer - Pharma
o Bertelsmann - media
o Deutsche Post DHL - logistics
o Deutsche Telekom - communication
o E.ON - electricity
o Thyssenkrupp - steel processing
o Evonik - chemistry
o Ford - automobiles
o Henkel - chemistry
o Dr. Oetker - food

o A total of 13 of the 40 largest retail companies such as Aldi, Metro or Rewe are at home in NRW.

o More than 750,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) form the economic backbone of the country.

o NRW is home to many large family businesses. 1,195 family-run companies with an annual turnover of at least 50 million euros are based here - that's more than in any other federal state, far ahead of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.

mechanical engineering
Metal production / processing
Food / drinks
Electrical engineering, electronics
Rubber, plastic
Glass, ceramics & earth
Coking plant, mineral oil processing.

Sales by industry in 2018 (in billion euros) Source: IT.NRW; Sales figures refer to companies with 20 and more employees



NRW is Germany's No. 1 in terms of foreign investment: At 172.5 billion euros, the state had the highest share (23.3 percent) of all 16 federal states in direct foreign investment in Germany at the end of 2017. 

No other region in Europe is as well connected as NRW. This is ensured 

  • major international airports:

    Germany's third largest passenger airport with connections to more than 200 destinations worldwide

    with an air freight volume of 860,000 tons of Germany's air freight center number three, through which every UPS package that leaves or reaches Europe runs.

    NRW has four other airports with European connections with a total of almost 450 international direct flights to the world's major cities.

  • Rail networks
    o NRW has the densest rail network in Germany. It connects NRW directly with Europe's largest port in Rotterdam and via the freight train connection "Yuxinou" with the Chinese Chongqing. The Yuxinou train runs the approximately 10,300 km route from China through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus via Poland to Germany four times a week.
  • Roads
    o More than 2,200 kilometers of motorways and 17,600 kilometers of federal and rural roads ensure that the locations in the country are optimally connected to the European trunk road network.
  • Rivers and canals
    o The country has 720 kilometers of waterways with 120 ports, including the world’s largest inland port in Duisburg with almost 128 million tons of goods handled annually.

Conclusion: In no other region in Europe can companies find better conditions for transport and logistics.

Thousands of scientists and developers work here at 70 universities and technical colleges in the densest research network in Europe. 

This network includes:

o the elite universities RWTH Aachen and Bonn
o the Research Center Jülich
o the German Aerospace Center
o nine institutes of the Leibniz Association
o 14 Fraunhofer institutes
o twelve Max Planck Institutes
o 56 collaborative research centers at universities

With around 773,000 students, one in four academics in Germany is trained in NRW. 

This makes NRW Germany's No. 1 talent factory. In 2018 alone, more than 112,000 students completed their training at universities in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Every fifth German startup now comes from NRW. Incubators such as “Startplatz” in Düsseldorf and Cologne or “Co: Forward” in Aachen promote startups. In 2016, the state government established six regional “digital hubs” in Aachen, Bonn, Düsseldorf / Rhineland, Cologne, in the Münsterland and in the Ruhr area in order to connect startups with medium-sized companies and large industrial companies. More and more NRW groups are developing their own accelerator concepts to invest in innovative technologies and business models. Haniel operates its corporate accelerator Schacht One at the Zeche Zollverein in Essen. The energy companies E.ON and the RWE subsidiary Innogy also rely on such models with the E.ON Agile Accelerator in Düsseldorf and the Essen Innogy Innovation Hub. In the economically largest federal state, global players from trade and industry as well as medium-sized businesses work together. This offers many opportunities to around 90,500 students in the fields of electrical engineering / information technology and computer science to realize their ideas.

Although North Rhine-Westphalia is the heart of Germany's industry, twelve nature parks with a total area of 13,000 square kilometers cover 40 percent of the state’s surface area. 

Keep fit on 14,000 kilometers of cycle paths and over 50,000 kilometers of hiking trails, refresh yourself at one of over 100 lakes or ski in the largest winter sport resort north of the Alps in the Sauerland. NRW offers plenty of space for variety and is one of the most popular travel destinations in Germany.  Here you can enjoy countless shopping opportunities, or take advantage of the cultural offerings in over 900 museums and on 130 stages - more than in Paris or London. The country is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the world-famous Cologne Cathedral.