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Top Five.

Cologne: in Germany’s top five for digital.

Digitization is changing our lives. Thanks to its rapidly growing infrastructure, Cologne provides the best possible prerequisites for digital business ventures. In Cologne – one of Germany’s most digitalized cities – some 550 digital startups generate around one billion euros a year.

The Digital Hub Cologne initiative sets out to connect innovative start-ups with business, science and industry thus creating value with and for the digital economy.

The Smart City Index, which is published by the industry association bitkom, ranked Cologne third in a nationwide comparison of the most digital cities in 2023, and number one in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The Smart City Index compares 81 German cities in terms of their strategic orientation and digitization strategies. The city of Cologne invested some 130 million euros in its digitization program in 2022 alone. These investments are now paying off. For example, Cologne scores highly for its 5G and fiber optics rollout and, at more than 80 percent, has the highest rate of fiber optic deployment in Germany. More than 28,000 km of fiber optic cables provide Cologne with one of the most modern Internet infrastructures in Europe.


digital start-ups

80  %

fiber optic cables


employees in the ICT sector

The city also ranks among the best in Germany in terms of the degree of digitization among businesses. 25,000 people work in the ICT (information and communication technologies) sector, some of them in "The Ship," one of the most digitalized office buildings in Germany.

The digital subsidiary of Eurowings, which will handle customer-related digital activities in Cologne, is enhancing Cologne’s appeal as a digital economy center. The Cologne-based airline's digital offshoot is investing millions into its Cologne faciltity. Eurowings Digital employs over 150 digital experts. Its new headquarters are in the trendy "Schanzenstraße" industrial area in Cologne’s Mülheim district. 

Several thousand employees at companies such as Rewe Digital and Obi next are also developing the digital future of retail in Cologne.

© KölnTourismus GmbH, Foto: Axel Schulten

Gamer Land NRW

In just a few years, computers and video games have become an unprecedented success story.

Long recognized as a cultural asset, computer games play both an economic role and help drive innovation. The video games sector is developing rapidly - as is the market for e-sports. In Cologne, more than 50 companies in the sector employ around 1,000 people, including multinationals such as Electronic Arts, Microsoft and the ESL FACEIT GROUP. The growing fascination with computer and video games has made the games industry one of the strongest revenue- and value-generating submarkets of the culture and creative industries, also in Cologne. Games could become a driver of innovation for North Rhine-Westphalia. That's why the state government will be supporting game developers, publishers and universities with funding and cutting red tape going forward. The goal is for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to become the leader of the games industry in Germany.


New E-Sports league

At ESL One Cologne (Electronic Sports League) in Cologne's LANXESS arena, tens of thousands of live spectators and millions of live streamers watch the world's best teams compete.

In the e-sports sector, the Cologne-based esports player foundation is fast-tracking professionalization. The initiative is dedicated to attracting young talent and providing e-sports with a scientific foundation. Simulation technologies are also becoming increasingly applicable in the education sector, as well as for medical applications. Extended Reality (XR) and the Metaverse are among the areas that the funding institution is addressing at an interdisciplinary level.


© Helena Kristiansson

Clash of Realities

Each year, the TH Köln (University of Technology, Arts, Sciences) hosts the internationally acclaimed "Clash of Realities" conference. What makes it special is that it offers a forum for scientists and practitioners as well as fans. The event provides space for a unique dialogue with participants and speakers from all over the world. In recent years, the conference has been expanded to include the artistic aspects of game development.


© KölnTourismus GmbH, Foto: Axel Schulten

Meeting point gamescom

As a trade fair city, Cologne is also an important meeting point for the games industry. Even after a two-year break, gamescom with its Congress & Festival attracted more than 265,000 visitors to Cologne. It remains the world's largest trade fair for computer and video games. We talked to Felix Falk, managing director of the games association, about the computer and video games industry.


Artificial intelligence in Cologne.

Real-time translation, optimized recycling plants, digital avatars for tablets that can be customized and respond to speech, fictional and non-fictional texts at the click of a button, sales forecasts for restaurants and TV production robots. These are just a few examples of how Cologne-based startups are using artificial intelligence to position themselves as gamechangers.

Cologne-based startups are pioneers in the research and use of artificial intelligence, or AI for short. AI is regarded worldwide as the core future technology. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia is investing millions in researching and developing AI. The KI.NRW competence platform links science and business to transfer research findings to the commercial sector. Already, services such as the intelligent automation and optimization of work processes, AI software for business controlling and quality inspection, AI-based systems for media providers or AI for languages as well as games are being developed and offered in the Cathedral City.


A winning collaboration betweenTH Köln and Westeria GmbH

In collaboration with TH Köln, the conveyor technology manufacturer Westeria GmbH developed an "intelligent waste spreader" known as the "Disc Spreader" system. Deep-q learning is now used to analyze the waste composition in recycling plants. As a result of better waste distribution on the conveyor belts, subsequent processes run more efficiently. As a result, sorting plants can achieve up to 30 percent higher yields.