Making all the Right Moves

Written by Henry Martin . Posted in FDI

Interview with Mr. Uwe Kerkmann Director- City of Düsseldorf Office of Economic Development

CEO: In what ways can the City of Düsseldorf’s Office of Economic Development assist those looking to relocate, expand or start up in the region?

Uwe Kerkmann: Düsseldorf – where business works! This is our claim and we do live up to our promise. We make sure that companies find a business environment that makes settling down, getting started and actually doing business as smooth and easy as possible. FDI rankings like those published by Ernst &Young prove that international companies really appreciate this service. In the years 2011 to 2016, they identified a total of 448 investment projects by foreign companies in Düsseldorf – by far the highest number among all German cities.

But what do we actually offer? The Office of Economic Development acts as a one-stop agency supporting companies with tailored services such as assisting investors with administrative procedures and permits, help with relocation of or recruitment of staff or finding of office space. We work with a tight network of consultants, including lawyers, tax advisors or property managers who are experienced in dealing with international entrepreneurs. But our support does not end with the opening of a branch or office. Through our aftercare services, we make sure that companies find help with any issue they might face. For instance, we organise business meetings and briefing seminars for foreign entrepreneurs in Düsseldorf in various languages on a regular basis. But most importantly, we also involve international companies and business communities into our industry networks and platforms. International entrepreneurs can therefore easily integrate into our local and regional economy.

"Through our aftercare services, we make sure that companies find help with any issue they might face."

CEO: Which industries are you particularly targeting and are there special incentives for those operating in such industries?

UK: First of all, the particular strength of Düsseldorf is the fact that it does not have a mono- business structure but actually offers opportunities in a wide range of industries. However, we do of course focus on targeting companies that will add to the value chain in our most innovative and productive clusters and sectors. One example is the ICT, i.e. the digital sector throughout the full range from digital startups to digital units of large corporates to providers of new smart technologies and applications. We are not a region offering subsidies for investment projects. We do offer a Welcome Package for innovative investors. This package guarantees a soft landing and is in each case tailored to the needs and requirements of the companies. Typical elements are for instance: support with usage of a co-working space or a serviced office for a limited period of time, invitation to key sector events to help to connect to potential business partners or clients or access to consultation by specialised advisors.

CEO: Which global regions is Dusseldorf looking to target in respect of inward investment in the short to medium term?

UK: Düsseldorf is a truly international place. Every sixth company registered in Düsseldorf has foreign origin. The largest business communities are from the Netherlands, the UK, China, the USA and Japan. Particularly in Asia, Düsseldorf has a very strong appeal. Düsseldorf plays host to the largest business community of Japanese companies in continental Europe. Furthermore, the Düsseldorf region is also a top destination for Chinese FDI attracting more investment projects than any other European region in 2016. For instance, dedicated country specialists work at the Japan Desk and the China Competence Center of the Office of Economic Development to target these markets. In response to current events, the team that looks after investors from Western Europe has also set up a Brexit task force advising companies from the UK against the background of Brexit. Target markets are visited on a regular basis to promote Düsseldorf and to make contact with companies interested in setting up in our area. In addition, we regularly visit innovation hotspots around the globe – in the US, in Israel or the Nordics to expand our network in these areas as well.

CEO: Which imminent and future developments are set to add to Dusseldorf’s FDI appeal?

UK: Apart from the topic of innovation, scale up for startups, I would like to mention one additional factor: talent attraction and internationality. More and more companies chose Düsseldorf as their location in Germany and Europe as they find here the right talent or a place that is an attractive city for the international talent they consider recruiting. In response to this trend the City has founded in cooperation with regional partners an Expat Service Desk to make international recruiting even more attractive and easy for companies.

"Every sixth company registered in Düsseldorf has foreign origin."

CEO: Is it more by accident, or design, that Dusseldorf has become a hub for Europe’s digital economy?

UK: It is most probably a mixture of both. Düsseldorf has a cluster of IT and telecommunications companies, innovative start-ups and a state-of-the-art manufacturing base which is unique in Europe. All three large German mobile network operators (Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica) are represented here as well as the most important network suppliers such as Ericsson, NEC, Huawei, Hitachi, Nokia, Oracle and ZTE. These companies are developing the software and hardware for the future “Internet of Things” and 5G applications. The proximity of developers and users, of customers and suppliers is of elementary importance for creating new business models. Furthermore, the Office of Economic Development has launched the digihub Düsseldorf/Rhineland in autumn 2016. The digihub acts as matchmaker between start-ups, medium-sized companies, corporates – both German and international and universities. This is a very efficient platform to create and facilitate new business ideas and models.

CEO: Which recent FDI success stories would you point to, by way of inspiring prospective investors?

UK: Well, there are quite a few but let me focus on just two: One is the success story of UK –based cosmetics company Lush. Lush were looking for a distribution and production hub in Germany and conducted quite a detailed location scouting in the year 2014/5. In 2015 they decided to set up production in Düsseldorf. With the support of the Office of Economic Development of the City, they found the right property, got support with building a production hall and help with recruiting local staff. We also advised and accompanied company representatives meeting with relevant authorities regards numerous permits and registrations required for producing cosmetics. Lush started with 200 people and has already expanded after just two years of running their operation in Düsseldorf to about 400 employees.

UK: Another example is the case of Wacom, the Japanese innovation leader in digital pen technology Wacom relocated its European headquarter to Düsseldorf in autumn 2016. Wacom chose Düsseldorf as their management wanted to be based in a location that is attractive for digital talents. They also link up to digital ecosystem, by becoming a member of digihub Düsseldorf/Rhineland and participated in the events taking place at our urban creative industries network. This truly helps Wacom build the brand and grow business.

For more information:


CEO Insight,
245 Shakespeare House, Shakespeare Road,
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7924 9908