NRW.Invest, the economic development agency of Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia – the leading large region in fDi's European Cities and Regions of the Future 2020/21 ranking for FDI Strategy – employs 78 people: 40 at its headquarters in Düsseldorf and 38 across overseas offices in China, India, Israel, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Turkey and the UK.


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The international offices play a major role in raising the region's profile abroad and gaining access to the local political and commercial networks. Staff training is a priority, with the organisation developing training programmes for regional and local economic development organisations. More than 30 seminars are held annually on topics such as urban planning, real estate and property, as well as key account management.

The agency conducts various marketing and outreach campaigns, including active promotion on social media, and in 2019 it organised more than 300 events in North Rhine-Westphalia and overseas. NRW.Invest also exhibits at international property trade shows such as Mipim and Expo Real to ensure direct communication with potential investors and to learn about industry trends.

Regions strategy

Focus topics for the agency include smart manufacturing, e-commerce, start-ups, e-mobility and AI. A wide range of incentives are also on offer for investors in the region including the Regional Economic Development Programme, which supports commercial enterprises in special promotion areas; NRW.Invest’s welcome package for all companies outside of the EU; and integration grants for the employment of jobseekers, which the agency offers in co-operation with the Federal Employment Agency.

Booming Basque Country

The Basque Country in Spain is ranked first for mid-sized regions. Invest in the Basque Country is a department of the SPRI Group, which focuses on securing and maintaining FDI. The unit is committed to attracting investors by attending local and international events, conducting trade missions with one-to-one meetings, and participating in ad hoc events to showcase investment opportunities in the region. In October 2019, Invest in the Basque Country organised an event, together with the Financial Times, focused on promoting FDI opportunities in the Basque Country for British companies.

The department is also focused on promoting growth in one of its target sectors, Industry 4.0. The Basque Industry 4.0 Strategy, promoted by the Basque government, aims to encourage the incorporation of intelligent systems into production plants, the use of emerging technologies in new products and processes and the integration of advanced materials into higher added-value solutions.


Other key initiatives include the Basque Digital Innovation Hub, a network of R&D facilities, pilot plants and technical expertise specialising in different areas of advanced manufacturing; and Bind 4.0, the first public-private start-up acceleration programme offering access to high-level Industry 4.0 customers in big data, additive manufacturing, artificial vision, cloud computing, augmented reality, cybersecurity, collaborative robotics, medtech and foodtech.

Ireland's open channels

Ireland South East is crowned the winner among small regions, with the Ireland South East Development Office (Isedo) established in 2018 to promote investment into the region’s five counties. Combined, Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford have a budget of €17m and employ 55 staff. Co-located in the IDA Ireland South East regional office in Waterford alongside IDA Ireland, the country’s inward investment promotion agency, and Enterprise Ireland, the national agency for supporting Irish businesses, Isedo is well positioned for open channels of engagement and communication around investment opportunities.

The office worked with key industry leaders, economic development agencies, the Department of Business, higher education institutes and other key stakeholders to develop the South East Regional Enterprise Plan, which aims to improve the region’s business environment, talent and infrastructure.

A new engineering cluster of 200 companies was launched in June 2019 and a financial services cluster was scheduled for launch in October 2019. Plans are under way for additional clusters in sectors such as life sciences and the creative industries and Isedo offers grant aid, property incentives, a mentoring programme, consultancy services and access to education and training partners through the South East Regional Skills Forum.