Business in Cologne. Best climate for innovation

  • Cologne Chamber of Commerce and Industry © Olaf-Wull Nickel
    Cologne Chamber of Commerce and Industry © Olaf-Wull Nickel

Start-up hotspot, long-standing commercial and industrial city, international hub, innovative media centre and leading logistics location: Since early times known as a traditional center of trade and industry, Cologne and its surrounding area have grown to become one of Europe’s most important economic areas and a hidden champion of the start-up scene. The pandemic has clearly shown how important the Chamber of Commerce – an expert point of contact for all of Cologne's industries – can be. Dr. Nicole Grünewald, President of the Cologne Chamber ...

[read more]

Start-up hotspot, long-standing commercial and industrial city, international hub, innovative media centre and leading logistics location: Since early times known as a traditional center of trade and industry, Cologne and its surrounding area have grown to become one of Europe’s most important economic areas and a hidden champion of the start-up scene.

The pandemic has clearly shown how important the Chamber of Commerce – an expert point of contact for all of Cologne's industries – can be. Dr. Nicole Grünewald, President of the Cologne Chamber of Industry and Commerce, talks to us about what has bothered and impressed her most during these difficult times. 

super start-up city.

Six hundred and fifty start-ups with an annual turnover of 1 billion euros in the City of Cologne alone! 12 business incubators, exclusive coworking spaces, major players, attractive investors, tons of networking events and a wide range of support programmes ... Cologne not only offers the perfect ecosystem for founders, but also boasts an open and creative atmosphere! Cologne-based startups have long been among the pioneers in fields like InsurTech and AI. Felix Falk, Managing Director of game – the German Games Industry Association, also stressed their strong presence in the gaming industry.

a SHIP for start-ups.

THE SHIP, a digital office building, has arrived in Ehrenfeld. In addition to FOND OF and its some 300 staff, the startup accelerator xdeck and other innovative businesses rank among its first tenants. Meeting today's demand for flexible collaborative digital working environments, THE SHIP also contains coworking areas, think tanks, a gym, a restaurant and a day-care centre. The building was completed in early 2020. And the digital vision which founder Dr Oliver Steinki has drawn up for Cologne does not stop there: Just next to THE SHIP, he is already working on the Vorum, which is to be finished by 2024 and follows the "Human Centric Building" concept. 

how excellent! The GATEWAY university startup service in Cologne.

It all started with the University of Cologne which in 2019 received 22.8 million euros to promote digital skills and startups. Since then, a culture of entrepreneurship has been established in the Cathedral City. Fittingly, the University of Cologne's innovation and startup center of excellence Start-up Center GATEWAY (only in German) has been housed in THE SHIP in Ehrenfeld since its opening. But the story continues: starting in 2021, four Cologne science institutions will bundle their start-up support. From now on, the start-up service at the University of Cologne, the Technical University of Cologne, the German Sport University Cologne and the Rhenish University of Applied Sciences Cologne will be located under the Gateway brand.

Start-up Unit to Start-up SAFARI.

The City of Cologne’s Start-up Unit provides support for founders as well as the opportunity to exchange ideas at networking events.The Digital Hub Cologne  brings businesses, the sciences and industry together. A three-day event that takes place all over the city, the Start-up SAFARI Cologne provides participants with the opportunities to listen to founders, talk to accelerators and investors and explore potential partnerships with SMEs as well as to gain insights into new businesses. The safari is organised by the creators of the internationally renowned PIRATE Summit start-up conference. Other startup  gatherings include the c/o pop convention and startupCon. Events such as the DMEXCO and gamescom complete the range of activities.   

coworking in Cologne.

Coworking is booming in Cologne. The availability of space thrives on the inspiring mix of established businesses, start-ups and creative freelancers – an ideal ecosystem for productive dialogue! WeWork offers space for over 1,000 coworkers at Friesenplatz. 2021, a second location in a building called the Wallarkaden will follow at Rudolfplatz square. Next to different desk options, such as the "own desk" service provide permanent work areas, while the "lab desk" service includes networking events, language and yoga courses, and "Lunch&Learn sessions" as part of the concept.

Located in Cologne's Mediapark, "STARTPLATZ" is a startup incubator and accelerator, an ecosystem for innovation. The offer includes consulting, coaching, workshops, events as well as the possibility to use the large network. Over 151 million euros have been invested in startups from STARTPLATZ to date. Design Offices offers flexible office and coworking solutions as well as conference rooms for meetings, workshops or coaching sessions at three locations in Cologne. And these are just a few of the attractive co-working offers in Cologne...

welcome to the home of eSports.

Just like the market for computer games, the market for eSports is growing rapidly. Taking place in Cologne’s LANXESS arena, the ESL One Cologne (Electronic Sports League) sees tens of thousands of on-site spectators and millions of livestream viewers follow world's best eSports teams as they battle it. In addition to ESL One, Cologne is also home to the world's largest games fair, the gamescom, with offshoot gamescom Asia in the making! Offering the potential to become a driver to innovation in NRW, the games industry enjoys the support of local government, which provides financial backing for game developers, publishers and universities and strives to reduce bureaucracy. The aim? To make NRW the German games industry leader!

Clash of Realities

In 2020, TH Köln hosted the internationally acclaimed conference "Clash of Realities" for the 11th time. The special feature: The conference on digital games offers a forum for both scientists and practitioners but also fans. A unique exchange with participants and speakers from all over the world, which in recent years has been expanded to include the aspect of the artistic practice of game development.

Cologne team awarded as creative pilots!

They were located in the former Cologne Game House and winners of 2019 Cultural and Creative Pilots Germany. Nevertheless, Slow.Bros' still today create real dollhouse sets and intricate costumes that later appear as virtual 3D props in a computer game called Harold Halibut. This approach represents an absolute games industry first.

"InsurCity" Cologne: Our Pacific on the Rhine

Known as “Atlantic”, “Pacific” and “Indian”, the three buildings on the site of the new MesseCity comprise 16 and 7 storeys respectively. Used for the most part from 2020 by the Zurich Group Germany, the buildings will bear the company's logo. Cologne, which is a major insurance centre, looks forward to hosting new Zurich-Rhineland headquarters. No wonder that Cologne is considered one of the "German insurance capitals". In addition to established international giants, numerous "InsurTech" startups settle in the Cologne area every year. At the yearly industry event of the same name, these startups mingle with insurance companies, industry experts and students to develop solutions for the digitalization of the insurance industry.

artificial intelligence in Cologne.

Simultaneous translation, detecting fake media content, sales forecasts for restaurants or robots for TV production – these are just a few examples of how Cologne start-ups are using artificial intelligence to position themselves as game changers. Start-ups are at the forefront of research into new applications for artificial intelligence (AI). A ground-breaking technology, artificial intelligence is changing the world of tomorrow. With this in mind, the state of NRW will have invested 25 million euros in research and development by 2023. To ensure findings reach the business community, the platform KI.NRW will be linking science and business. Today, services such as intelligent automation and work process optimisation, AI for corporate management, quality control, languages or games are being developed and marketed in Cologne. 

car city Cologne. Plant to become e-car centre.

Automotive companies from all over the world, including DAF, Mazda, Renault, Volvo and Toyota, have parked their German headquarters in Cologne. With a workforce of some 16,000, the Ford Group not only has its European headquarters in Cologne but is also the city's largest employer and a key factor in the local economy. Cologne is Europe's first Ford plant to be awarded a contract to produce electric cars. Over the next few years, Ford will spend a billion dollars converting its plant on the banks of the Rhine, with the first all-electric cars expected to roll off the production line at some point in 2023. A follow-up model is already in development. The investment will help put Cologne at the forefront of electric car technology. Incidentally, Cologne's automotive history begins back in 1864 when the inventor of the four-stroke engine, Nicolaus August Otto and business partner Eugen Langen founded the world's first engine factory. Even today, the Cologne region is still one of Germany’s most important vehicle manufacturing locations.

ChemTelligence in the Rhineland.

With 250 companies and over 70,000 employees, the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors lead the ranking of industries in the Rhineland. Global corporations such as Bayer, LANXESS, ExxonMobilChemical and INEOS are based here, with almost 22 percent of the German chemical sales generated right here. And the industry doesn't stop there: On its new innovation platform Chemtelligence [DE], the industry stands together to meet current challenges with smart solutions. Another developing field in the Cologne region is biotechnology. With 20 companies in the city and more than 40 in the region, the cathedral city is considered one of the leading biotech and life science regions in Europe. Obviously, one key location advantage results from the proximity of important chemical and pharmaceutical companies and the distinctive research and university landscape.

innovative. environmental economy in Cologne.

Cologne’s environmental economy is heavily focused on research and innovation. Ideas and local projects on the “climate and renewal energies” as well as efficient transport and energy connections can be found at SmartCity Cologne. And what a success this project is: Cologne was listed as Germany's fourth smartest City in the recent BITKOM ranking.

[show less]

Meeting Point Cologne

Cologne and its surrounding areas boast a long trading and industrial tradition. All in all, it’s home to a future-proof mix of industries. Find out more in our section ‚Meeting Point Cologne’. The "Meeting Point Cologne" is comfortably readable as an e-paper. We would also be pleased to send you the magazine as a print brochure. Also don't miss to read through our interviews with inspiring characters from the science and business sectors in Cologne.

FAQs Business in Cologne - Frequently asked questions

Which business sectors are established in Cologne?

Cologne is considered a trading city and covers many of Germany’s most important business sectors. The city is characterized by its strong diversification, covering areas such as retailing, with major companies such as the REWE Group; wholesaling with Handelshof, for example; the automotive sector with Ford, whose plant and European headquarters are located in Cologne, and the chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry.

How many coworking spaces are available in Cologne?

Cologne is a hot spot of the German startup scene: The city is a pioneer in this regard, boasting a total of 12 business incubators and more than 30 coworking spaces. To learn more about the startup scene in Cologne, check out the interview with Dr. Janssen from Wirtschaftsförderung Köln (Cologne office for the promotion of economic development).

How large is Cologne’s catchment area?

Cologne has an unparalleled catchment area. You can reach a total of 17 million people in a 100-km radius around the city. This is more than any other metropolis in continental Europe. As a result, Cologne is an optimal location for new startups as well as for traditional companies.

Which TV stations are based in Cologne?

Cologne is one of Germany’s media cities and it hosts four major TV broadcasters. The primary one is of course WDR, which is continental Europe’s largest broadcasting organization under public law. In addition to several small niche broadcasters, the RTL media group, with its broadcasters Super RTL, n-tv, RTL, VOX, and many more, is also based in Cologne.