With research and development (R&D) expenditures of €14.3b in 2017, NRW accounted for 14.3% of the national total, notably – although not substantially – below its economic weight (Eurostat, 2020). In line with this, the regional R&D intensity of 2.11% GERD per GDP remains below the national average (3.07%) (Eurostat, 2020). Likewise, the share of business sector R&D amounts to 59% of the total regional R&D expenditures, notably less than at the national level (69%) (Eurostat, 2020). On the other hand, the contribution of the higher education sector to the total R&D expenditure remains noteworthy, even if not substantially above the national level (27% vs. 17%) (Eurostat, 2020). Finally, the share of government R&D amounted to around 15% in NRW compared to 14% at the national level in 2017 (Eurostat, 2020).
The position regarding research and development results for 2017, shows that 6,856 patent applications were filed in North-Rhine Westphalia, accounting for 14.7% of Germany’s applications (38 patent applications /100,000 inhabitants vs. 56 patent applications/ 100,000 inhabitants in Germany) (DPMA, 2019). At the European level, in 2012, NRW filed 3,666 applications to the EPO, 19.8% of Germany’s applications (Eurostat, 2020). In terms of innovation, NRW has strength in various sectors and notably: Mechanical engineering, metalwork, metal production and processing, chemicals, healthcare / logistics, banks and insurances, information and communications (new media) (Bundesregierung, 2019). In terms of employment, this translates to 3.6% in high technologies (manufacturing and services altogether) (Eurostat, 2019). In 2015, NRW had 99,536 full-time equivalent people working in research and development, 15.5% of the German R&D workforce (Eurostat, 2019).
In terms of education, NRW can draw on a large network of around 70 universities of applied sciences (MKW, 2019). Also, 31.9% of the 30-34-year olds have attained higher education standards in the region, slightly below national average (35.5%) (Eurostat, 2020).
Regarding the research infrastructure, NRW has one of the densest research landscapes in Europe. The region counts 14 clusters, funded by the German Federal state (MKW, 2019). NRW also has more than 50 non-university research facilities including 14 Fraunhofer Institutes, 12 Max Planck Institutes, 10 Institutes of the “Leibniz Association”, three Fraunhofer application centre, three Helmholtz Centres (Research Centre Jülich, German Centre for Aviation and Space Travel, German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases), the Centre of Advanced European Studies and Research, as well as the 15 Johannes Rau-Research Institutes and 14 other research facilities financed by NRW state funds (MKW , 2019).
In addition, there are nearly, 30 technology transfer units form the basis for the regional research and innovation system. In these technology transfer units, the universities receive special support regarding the setting up of a new business, handling patents, etc. (NRW Invest 2019).
In North Rhine-Westphalia, 94% of the households have broadband access which is the same than the national average (Eurostat, 2020).