As part of the Digital Economy NRW (DWNRW) initiative, in 2016, five digital hubs were established to bring together digital start-ups, established companies, science, and investors. This networking of the various groups of actors is supported by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Prognos evaluated the impact of the five DWNRW hubs in the first funding period and parts of the second funding period, and from this drew recommendations on how funding might be allocated in the future. The results of the evaluation have now been published.
What the digital hubs in NRW have achieved
The five DWNRW hubs have now developed into regional platforms for the digital economy in the Rhineland (Aachen, Bonn, Düsseldorf), Münsterland (Münster) and the Ruhr region (Essen). So far, about 1,000 start-ups have become part of the hub network and more than 55,000 people have already participated in hub events. Around four out of five users surveyed say they have benefited from the hubs in the areas of network & visibility as well as knowledge & competence. In addition, the hubs’ users often recommended them to others. According to the respondents, the hubs motivate entrepreneurship, contribute to networking and the development of start-ups, and support in promotion and financing. The DWNRW hubs’ users also considered the prices to be appropriate. Only two areas are considered to have had no great impact: access to customers and companies, and access to capital and investors.
How digital hubs can be developed further
Prognos recommends continuing promotion of the DWNRW hubs and developing them in some areas. The hubs should, for example, have international networks and establish partner ships with hub-like organisations in other countries. In addition, access to capital for start-ups should be strengthened, for example, through the establishment of business angel networks and their own seed funds. In addition, the hub acceleration programmes need to be further developed and expanded. Thematically focusing on the hubs could further raise their profile and contribute to the division of labour in the start-up ecosystem.
For the evaluation, the DWNRW hubs’ system of indicators was analysed. In addition, secondary statistical data was evaluated, and 45 interviews conducted. The focus was on an online survey of around 480 participants. In addition, the empirical results were presented in round-table discussions with the DWNRW hubs, and the implications for action were discussed.
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