Dusseldorf No good jobs without new businesses. This is why almost all parties spread additional support for start-ups after the regional elections. Curiously, the subject is not even broached in a single party. Checking your programs shows this.
Victory on points for the FDP: the liberals of NRW mention the term “start-up” 19 times in their program for the regional elections on Sunday. They are followed by the Greens (12 mentions) and the CDU (11). The word appears twice more in the SPD, but not once in the AfD. A startling difference, since all parties have actually discovered the start-up scene as a relevant clientele for themselves in recent years. The start-ups promise innovative technology, additional jobs and new opportunities for certain sites. The CDU writes that NRW should become a “key player” in the national start-up landscape. “Are we going to become even more successful as the number 1 start-up country”, declares the FDP as a goal. “We are making NRW the leader in start-ups,” argued the Greens.
At the same time, however, the founders have also become more confident – they are turning directly to politics with their demands for better funding opportunities and less bureaucracy. A look at the election platforms of all parties currently represented in the state legislature shows: Basically, many want to bolster the start-up scene in the state. However, when it comes to concrete concepts, one has to take a closer look. And unlike Sunday’s vote, class matters more than quantity when it comes to content.
The start-up has been neat: almost 3,000 young entrepreneurs have been supported with the start-up grant since 2018, the FDP proudly reports – the program was widely promoted by Economics Minister Andreas Pinkwart. In the future, at least 1,000 such grants will be awarded each year, which will pay out 1,000 euros for up to twelve months, so that the founders can concentrate on their idea. We want to “constantly broaden and go further” in this direction, according to the Liberal program. The CDU is also in favor of extending this component. The Greens want to “improve” it – without listing the details.
The scholarship can help in the first meters. But then start-ups need venture capital – from private investors or public authorities. Otherwise, there is a risk that technology companies will migrate to other federal states. On the one hand, the focus here is on NRW-Bank as a state-owned development bank: the Greens aim to provide microcredit and mezzanine capital, an intermediate form of capital and venture capital. loan. The FDP points out that the development bank has bundled its start-up activities under the “NRW.Venture” umbrella brand. On the other hand, however, it is about getting private investors excited about NRW – despite some progress, this is an ambitious project. The FDP undertakes to make the site “even more attractive internationally”. The CDU wants to develop a strategy to “develop initial public offerings for our tech start-ups” – so far the Düsseldorf Stock Exchange has not been known as the first port of call for tech companies. The Greens envision a venture capital fund, secured by federal and state funds, to promote innovations in sustainable areas – from mobility to biotechnology.
As a regional anchor for network founders with medium-sized enterprises and companies, there are “digital hubs” in NRW – there are currently five such institutions in Aachen, Bonn, Dusseldorf, Muenster and Essen. According to the FDP, it intends to further expand this system. The same goes for the Greens: they also plan to set up additional hubs in rural areas – but both sides are mum on specific locations. In addition, the Greens propose so-called “transformation networks”. They are planned in NRW regions where the automotive industry is getting under the wheels – and are intended to support start-ups there with their market entry. The money for this could come from the future fund of the federal government.
From bachelor’s thesis to business plan: many start-up ideas take shape in universities. A lot has happened here in recent years. “Start-up centers of excellence” are being built in Aachen, Bochum, Dortmund, Cologne, Münster and Paderborn. The Greens want to expand the consultative structures, here too the focus is on universities in rural areas. The CDU is planning a competition to bring entrepreneurship to the fore in universities and technical schools in NRW. And the FDP wants to make it even easier to transfer science to the business world – a separate autonomous institution is to be created for this.
From government IT to construction projects: the state itself invests a lot of money every year. However, start-ups are often excluded from the award criteria because, for example, they are not yet profitable or cannot present any reference project. Some parties are taking up the issue: The CDU says the country must “use its purchasing power” to promote start-ups. The FDP also wishes to facilitate the participation of start-ups in public tenders.
More and more, start-ups are emerging that aim to have the widest possible social impact – and put financial returns first. The CDU is planning its own platform “Impact.NRW” to promote this social entrepreneurship. The FDP especially wishes to extend the advice to start-ups in this field. The SPD is explicitly committed to taking into account “socio-ecological criteria” in public tenders. The Greens also want to help start-ups that focus on the common good with this step. So-called social start-ups have been asking for this step for a long time in order to be able to win government orders and therefore relevant sales.
There are also initiatives aimed at strengthening certain population groups. The CDU plans its own programs to support both female founders and founding teams with an immigrant background – according to start-up statistics, both are considered significantly underrepresented. The FDP calls the project based at the University of Wuppertal “Women Entrepreneurs in Science”, which could be rolled out nationwide. The SPD wants to set up a special support program for women – and make the existing start-up support more gender-equitable.
Sunday’s vote is likely to be very close. According to some surveys, it is conceivable that the CDU and the Greens could create a joint majority, precisely because the Greens will probably be very strong with a share of more than 15%. At least previous surveys have shown that such a constellation might be welcomed by many founders because the Greens and the CDU were the most popular parties for them. In a fall 2020 survey for the Startup Monitor, they came in at 37%, Union at 28%. However, at that time the FDP also held a 20% share. If there was a three-way combination in the state government, the Greens and the FDP would probably be represented there – either with the Union or with the Social Democrats.