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North Rhine-Westphalia achieves record growth in foreign direct investment in 2021

Minister Pinkwart: Excellent result demonstrates high standing of our business location on international markets

Despite the pandemic, the investment location North Rhine-Westphalia closed the year 2021 with a record. According to evaluations by the state's own foreign trade promotion agency NRW.Global Business, 458 companies settled or expanded their operations in North Rhine-Westphalia. This is a new high for foreign direct investment (FDI) since records began in North Rhine-Westphalia. Globally, FDI figures are showing a clear recovery after the slump in 2020. North Rhine-Westphalia recorded strong year-on-year growth of 12 percent, well above the German (+7 percent) and global (+11 percent) figures. The number of new jobs forecast also reached a new high of more than 14,000 due to a particularly high number of large-scale projects.

Minister of Economics and Innovation Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart: "This excellent result in foreign direct investment once again demonstrates the high standing of our business location on the international markets. North Rhine-Westphalia has come through the crisis years well. In the future, we will continue to focus on our key topics of energy transition, climate protection, digitalization and the transformation of the economy, which offer international companies new opportunities to participate in the transformation of our region."

Facts and figures at a glance:

  • Greater China continues to lead the investor countries with 69 projects, but recorded a significant decline (-22 percent, prior year: 88).
  • The Netherlands achieved a strong increase with 56 projects (+47 percent, prior year: 38), as many projects planned during the pandemic were implemented in 2021. Turkey follows with 49 projects and some losses after two extremely dynamic years (-22 percent, prior year: 63).
  • Investments from the USA remained at a similar level to 2019 and 2020, but increased to 47 projects (+27 percent, prior year: 39), while the UK achieved a significant increase of over 100 percent with 30 projects (previous year: 14).
  • With numerous major projects creating a large number of jobs, the USA has maintained its top position as a job engine in North Rhine-Westphalia, followed by Greater China, Canada and the Netherlands. 

"Investment projects in future areas such as renewable energies, digitalization, new mobility or biotech underline the importance of North Rhine-Westphalia as a strong innovation location. Numerous 'green investments' by foreign companies are a new, exciting development that shows how attractive our state is for developing innovative technologies and opening up new markets," explains Felix Neugart, CEO of NRW.Global Business.

Sustainable energy solutions are being brought to North Rhine-Westphalia by US hydrogen expert Plug Power, which is opening its European service and logistics center in Duisburg. By the end of 2025, 500 tons of green hydrogen will be produced there annually. And the British chemicals group INEOS is also planning to build a 100 MW electrolyzer at its Cologne site for the CO2-free production of hydrogen. The US carmaker Ford is likewise focusing on zero emissions in Cologne: The company is investing in the modernization of its vehicle production and is expanding the site into the Ford Cologne Electrification Center. The topic of sustainability also plays a role in the logistics industry: The US textile company Levi Strauss is building one of Europe's largest logistics centers in Dorsten with the focus on recycling, resource conservation and waste reduction.

Digital transformation and IT security remain high on the agenda: For example, the Indian IT group Mphasis, which specializes in cloud and cognitive services, is strengthening its presence in Europe with a sales center in Düsseldorf. And the Canadian IT service provider CGI and specialist for cyber security is expanding its NRW hubs and looking to create 1,500 jobs at the Bochum, Düsseldorf and Cologne sites. In addition, Zoom, the video conferencing platform from the USA that has taken off since the pandemic, is opening its first German office in Cologne.

North Rhine-Westphalia also remains a popular location in the Bio Science sector: Ambiomed, the heart pump specialist from the USA, plans to expand its European headquarters in Aachen and increase the number of employees by more than 50 percent. In addition, the Norwegian pharmaceutical company Photocure, a specialist in bladder cancer, opened its European headquarters in Düsseldorf.

North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany's number one investment location: More than 20,000 foreign companies employ around 1.3 million people in the state.

Note: A factsheet on "Foreign Direct Investments in NRW – Results for 2021" can be found here.