International Entrepreneurship Office
Removing barriers, fostering start-ups
According to the Expat City Ranking 2019, Aachen ranks 11th among the best cities for living abroad worldwide, making it the most liveable German city; in the category 'Urban Work Life', Aachen takes first place, as it did in 2018. Nevertheless, there are hurdles associated with starting a business in a foreign country that prevent many international start-up teams from founding in Aachen, or cause difficulties for those who still decide to found a company in the region. Either way, founders run the risk of not being able to fully exploit the potential of their start-up.
Extensive support from the International Entrepreneurship Office
RWTH Aachen University therefore aims to provide special support to internationals interested in setting up their own business. In order to facilitate the smooth process of foundation and thus to prevent precisely these additional challenges from impairing the potential of the founding idea, the RWTH Innovation has created the International Entrepreneurship Office (IEO), a contact point that is specifically tailored to the needs of international founders.
The list of potential hurdles is extensive, and so is the range of services offered by the IEO. Together with its partners, the International Entrepreneurship Office offers support in the areas visa, accommodation, language courses, health insurance, bank account, co-working space, funding, intellectual property (IP) protection, mentoring, events, networking and newcomer service. The IEO's services are available to fully international as well as mixed start-up teams within the Ideation Program and Incubation Program and are completely free of charge.
EXIST internationalisation strategy
The IEO is part of RWTH Aachen University's internationalisation strategy within the project EXIST-Potentials, a funding program of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) for the further development of start-up networks at universities. With its concept "The International Start-up University" RWTH Aachen University was one of twelve universities to win the nationwide competition for funding in the category "Convincing internationally". The funding of 1.7 million euros will be used to realise three objectives: to sharpen the international entrepreneurial spirit at RWTH Aachen University, to remove barriers for international founders in Aachen and to build an international network of universities, investors and companies.
First international start-up successes
Aachen is extremely attractive for prospective founders in many ways. As Eugen Röhrich, co-founder of the start-up company E-LLOYD, emphasizes, the university infrastructure in particular is a decisive factor in the choice of location: "Aachen actually is a strategic decision by us, because in the beginning we had all the help from the institutes of the universities here in Aachen. But also the start-up culture and the geographical location of the city attract many people interested in founding a company, including internationals, as Ana Alonso, co-founder of Terranigma Solutions GmbH, who moved to Aachen from Spain, points out: "There are lots of start-up companies around, the city is in the heart of Europe. "It's a very welcome and supporting environment in Aachen for international founders. It's just that easy to look around, find the right people and just make an application or just make the first step," says Nandakishore Sudhakaran from India, who was supported by the IEO in applying for his visa and is now a co-founder of the start-up NutriDawn. The IEO supports international founders not only in settling in, but also in the founding process itself. The international founding team of the start-up E-LLOYD has taken advantage of this support: "RWTH Innovation helped us in the beginning, from forming the business idea to getting the funds, and then helped us with the organization to get an office and to make contacts".
With the establishment of the IEO, RWTH Aachen University is well on track to become Europe's most attractive contact point for high quality, scalable start-up projects – not only for German founders but also for international entrepreneurs of tomorrow.