Cologne: A Gateway to European Success




In the heart of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia lies a city that’s more than just a picturesque destination along the Rhine River. Cologne, with its iconic cathedral and vibrant culture, is rapidly emerging as a powerhouse of opportunity for UK businesses looking to expand their horizons in continental Europe, especially in the post-Brexit landscape.

The Economic Heartbeat of Western Germany

Cologne’s economic strength is undeniable. As the largest city in North Rhine-Westphalia, it boasts a diverse and robust economy with a GDP of €65 billion, making it a prime location for international collaboration. The city’s strategic location and world-class infrastructure make it an ideal launchpad for UK companies eager to tap into the European market.

Unparalleled Connectivity

Imagine having Europe at your doorstep. With Cologne’s international airport, high-speed rail connections, and extensive network of highways and waterways, that’s exactly what you get. This connectivity isn’t just about moving goods; it’s about fostering relationships and seizing opportunities across the continent. This ease of access is a key reason why companies like REHAU, a UK-based polymer specialist, chose Cologne as its European headquarters.

A Cluster of Excellence

Cologne isn’t just big; it’s specialized. The city has cultivated thriving industry clusters that offer rich possibilities for UK businesses:

  • Media and Creative Industries: For those in broadcasting, publishing, or digital media, Cologne is a content creator’s dream, home to over 7,000 media companies and employing over 100,000 people. Read more about the media and creative industries ecosystem and the opportunities in Cologne here.
  • Automotive Innovation: The region’s strong automotive supply chain, with major players like Ford having a significant presence, is ripe for partnerships and technological advancements. The UK’s expertise in electric vehicle technology, for example, is highly sought after. Find out about the opportunities in greater detail here.
  • Life Sciences Hub: From pharmaceuticals to biotech, the city is at the forefront of medical innovation, boasting over 600 companies and research institutions in the life sciences sector. This presents a prime opportunity for UK companies looking to collaborate on cutting-edge research and development. Checkout this article to learn how Cologne is a gateway to Europe for Life Science businesses.
  • Logistics Leadership: Leveraging its prime location, Cologne has become a logistics powerhouse, with over 150,000 people employed in the sector. Its strategic location within Europe makes it an ideal hub for UK companies looking to streamline their supply chains.

These clusters aren’t just business sectors; they’re ecosystems of innovation, collaboration, and growth.

Your Invitation

Join us this Autumn in London for one-on-one meetings with the team from KölnBusiness, Cologne’s official Economic Development Agency.

Get bespoke advice from the Agency and local Cologne ecosystem stakeholders about the opportunities for your business in the region, and learn about the incentives and benefits that are on offer.

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Talent Pool That Runs Deep

One of Cologne’s greatest assets is its people. The metropolitan area is home to several prestigious universities and research institutes, including the University of Cologne and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), producing a steady stream of highly skilled professionals. For UK companies, this means access to a workforce that’s not just educated, but innovative and globally minded.

More Than Just Business

What truly sets Cologne apart is its quality of life. Consistently ranked among Germany’s most liveable cities, it offers:

  • A rich cultural tapestry with over 30 museums and 120 art galleries.
  • Affordable living costs compared to other major European cities.
  • The scenic beauty of the Rhine, offering a picturesque backdrop for both work and leisure.

This combination makes Cologne not just a great place to do business, but a wonderful place to call home. It’s a crucial factor in attracting and retaining top international talent.

The Startup Scene: Where Innovation Meets Opportunity

Cologne’s entrepreneurial spirit is palpable. The city buzzes with startup energy, supported by a network of accelerators, incubators, and co-working spaces like the STARTPLATZ Cologne and the Digital Hub Cologne. For UK startups looking to scale or established companies seeking fresh ideas, Cologne’s innovation ecosystem is a fertile ground for growth and collaboration.

Navigating the Post-Brexit Landscape

In the wake of Brexit, Cologne offers a stable and welcoming environment for UK businesses looking to maintain their European presence. The city’s authorities have streamlined processes for UK companies, offering guidance on new regulatory requirements and facilitating smooth transitions. For instance, the Cologne Economic Development Agency provides tailored support to foreign investors, assisting with everything from legal and administrative procedures to finding suitable office space and connecting with potential business partners.

Comparative Advantage: Why Cologne?

While cities like Frankfurt and Berlin often grab headlines, Cologne offers unique advantages:

  • Lower cost of living compared to Frankfurt or Munich, translating to more affordable operational costs.
  • A more balanced work-life culture than the intense startup scene of Berlin.
  • Central location with excellent connections to both Eastern and Western Europe.

Success Stories

Several UK companies have already found success in Cologne. For example, Vodafone, which has its German headquarters in nearby Düsseldorf, has significantly expanded its operations in the Cologne region. Another success story is the UK-based marketing agency, The Social Chain, which chose Cologne for its German operations due to the city’s strong media presence and talent pool.

Cultural Considerations

While German business culture shares many similarities with the UK, there are some differences to be aware of:

  • Germans typically prefer more formal business interactions, especially in initial meetings.
  • Punctuality is highly valued; being on time is considered being late.
  • Decision-making processes can be more deliberate and consensus-driven than in the UK.

Understanding and respecting these cultural nuances can greatly enhance business relationships.

Regulatory Environment

Germany’s regulatory environment is known for its stability and transparency. While some processes may be more bureaucratic than in the UK, they are generally straightforward and predictable. The German Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch) provides a comprehensive framework for business operations, and Cologne’s local authorities offer support in navigating these regulations.

Your Invitation

Join us this Autumn in London for one-on-one meetings with the team from KölnBusiness, Cologne’s official Economic Development Agency.

Get bespoke advice from the Agency and local Cologne ecosystem stakeholders about the opportunities for your business in the region, and learn about the incentives and benefits that are on offer.

Full Name


We will email further details

Future Outlook

Cologne’s future looks bright. The city is investing heavily in digital infrastructure and sustainability initiatives. By 2025, Cologne aims to be a leading smart city in Germany, with plans for extensive 5G coverage and innovative urban mobility solutions. This forward-thinking approach ensures that businesses setting up in Cologne will be well-positioned for future growth and innovation.

A Strategic Partner

KölnBusiness is the city’s Economic Development Agency, and plays a pivotal role in Cologne’s appeal to UK businesses. This municipal organization offers comprehensive, cost-free support tailored to international companies, effectively smoothing the path for post-Brexit expansion.

KölnBusiness International Team

Their services span from navigating German bureaucracy to facilitating industry connections, location scouting, and talent acquisition. By leveraging KölnBusiness’s expertise, UK companies can swiftly integrate into Cologne’s dynamic business ecosystem, accessing its robust infrastructure, diverse talent pool, and thriving industry clusters. This support transforms the challenges of European expansion into strategic advantages, making Cologne not just a new location, but a launchpad for continental success. 

Conclusion: Your European Success Story Starts Here

As the UK charts its new course in the global economy, Cologne stands out as a beacon of opportunity in the post-Brexit landscape. It offers more than just a market; it provides a partnership. With its economic strength, strategic location, industry expertise, and unmatched quality of life, Cologne isn’t just a city—it’s your gateway to European success.

For UK companies ready to write their next chapter, Cologne isn’t just an option—it’s the obvious choice. Visit the Cologne Economic Development Agency website today to learn more about how your business can thrive in the heart of Europe. Welcome to your future in the heart of Europe.

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Ian Collins
Ian Collins
Ian Collins, with an extensive background spanning over 30 years in business development and general management, co-founded GTM Global in 2015. His experience encompasses hi-tech industries such as security, artificial intelligence, business intelligence, and enterprise software solutions. In his career, Ian has started several tech companies, overseen two corporate ventures, executed a management buy-in, and led two business turnarounds. He has also been involved in buying, selling, and merging various of his companies, and has achieved two successful business exits. Ian's expertise is particularly focused on business growth strategies and leading-edge proposition development.