© Clou GmbH

From an industrial region
to a centre of innovation

Movers and shakers welcome: the Ruhr region hopes to entice even more entrepreneurs and investors to the area. The BRYCK innovation hub and future factory initiated by the RAG-Stiftung will play a central role in doing so.

Close to the centre

BRYCK is located in a district considered one of the most forward-thinking and innovative in Essen. © Mike Henning

The Ruhr region can look back on a long-standing tradition of entrepreneurship: it was the industrial heart of Germany for many years, and many pioneers and thought leaders come from the area. Precisely this type of entrepreneurial spirit is in demand more than ever before – after all, it is about the Ruhr region’s successful transformation to a region of the future. Thanks to innovative business models and new expertise, start-ups in particular are a crucial success factor when the goal is to accelerate transformation processes. But for start-ups to be able to grow, they need the corresponding breeding ground – the ideal ‘ecosystem’. The aim of the BRYCK innovation hub and future factory initiated by the RAG-Stiftung is to contribute significantly in this regard. In October 2021, BRYCK moved into the former tower of FUNKE Mediengruppe. In light of financing the perpetual obligations of post-mining, the RAG-Stiftung hopes to gain access to a wide range of innovations, also including identifying potential investments for the asset portfolio of the RAG-Stiftung.

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Starting gun

The first members of the ecosystem moved into the so-called BRYCK Tower in autumn of 2021. © Mike Henning

‘The innovation hub and future factory stands for renewal and transformation in the Ruhr region, a wealth of ideas, an innovative culture and sustainable thinking.’

Bernd Tönjes, Chairman of the Board of Executives of the RAG-Stiftung

At home in the Ruhr region

The BRYCK innovation hub and future factory in Essen stands for the transformation of the region. © Mike Henning

Cross-regional radiance

Because the RAG-Stiftung considers itself an entrepreneurial Foundation Group and a Foundation for the Future, it also takes – wherever synergies arise – shaping the future of the former coal mining region into account when making investments. The innovation hub and future factory is not only meant to actively contribute to the development of the district in Essen, but also to develop a radiant force for entrepreneurs and investors that stretches beyond the region itself. In future, the business, scientific and research communities will form an ecosystem there for innovation and transformation – also for small and new companies in the SME sector. This will result in a new creative space for development and co-innovation. ‘The innovation hub and future factory stands for renewal and transformation in the Ruhr region, a wealth of ideas, an innovative culture and sustainable thinking,’ emphasises Bernd Tönjes.

The BRYCK team, with its two managing directors Christian Lüdtke and Phillipp Herrmann, has dedicated itself to starting up the new ecosystem around innovation and entrepreneurs and building up and expanding it ‘brick by brick’.

A great location

The Essen city centre, with its wide range of shops and cultural offers – is easily accessible from the BRYCK Tower. Access to public transport is also nearby. © Mike Henning

Multifaceted network

In consideration of the strengths of the region and the RAG-Stiftung’s network, the focus is primarily on three clusters: medicine and health with the megatrends life sciences and nutrition, chemicals and materials management and urban life with the aspects of logistics and the energy mix of the future. Additionally, the cross-sectional clusters digitalisation and sustainability also play an important role. The members, who are already working together across a total of four levels of the tower, bring together a diverse network and a wide range of competencies: start-ups like e-learning specialist Masterplan are on hand, along with venture capitalists Gründerfonds Ruhr, hydrogen start-up hub H2UB and chemstars.nrw, a network for start-ups in the chemicals and chemicals-related industries. And the Zentrum für Gründungen und Innopreneurship (GUIDE) – a centre for innovative start-ups – at the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) is also an innovation partner of BRYCK.

More space for innovations

The topics and competency fields of the ecosystem, which are strictly future-oriented, enable the RAG-Stiftung to engage in discourse with drivers of innovation at an early stage and to identify promising start-ups for potential future investments. The collaboration with Bundesverband Deutsche Startups e. V. is further proof that the RAG-Stiftung is closely involved in the fields of the start-ups: there have already been several joint publications, including the Innovationreport Ruhr, the Cybersecurity Report and the Hydrogen Report, with all publications putting topics important to the region into a larger context.

And what does the future hold for the innovation hub and future factory? While BRYCK is working on innovative projects with its first members, the ecosystem will continue to grow – so there will be even more potential for innovations, creativity, networking and the like.


‘At BRYCK, the name says it all: we begin with plenty of motivation and, at the same time, with the necessary structured approach: “BRYCK by BRYCK”, if you will. Also, the Y in BRYCK stands for the English question “why?” – this is the question that drives everyone who has dedicated their life to innovation: Why do I want to get involved? What are we trying to create for the future? Last but not least, we see every one of our members as a brick that grows to be part of a greater whole.’

BRYCK Managing Director

Christian Lüdtke

© chemstars.nrw

‘Every member of the innovation hub has their own strengths and networks. By engaging in discourse with other initiatives and programmes, we can leverage synergies and are therefore able to make the best possible support available for entrepreneurial projects and start-ups.’

Project Lead Ecosystems & Partnering at chemstars.nrw

Stefan Weber

© Archive Uwe Kerkmann

‘Working for and with startups is very communicative and also sometimes very spontaneous. It’s important to have a central location where we and the start-ups can work both individually with enhanced focus as well as together in a communicative manner. The new ecosystem offers these advantages.’

CEO of H2UB GmbH

Uwe Kerkmann

Director of Start-Up Business at BRYCK

Laura Kohler


‘Innovation in its various forms is always a project close to the heart. So, as a long-time supporter of startups in my former home – the Ruhr region – I’m that much more pleased to be able to offer my experience to the next generation of innovation drivers and entrepreneurs.’

Interview with the Board of Executives
In the BRYCK Tower, the members of the Board of Executives – Bernd Tönjes, Bärbel Bergerhoff-Wodopia and Dr Jürgen Rupp – talk about the challenges of the 2021 financial year.
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The Foundation Group – an innovative and sustainable model
With their future-oriented business models, the strategic holdings of the RAG-Stiftung make an important contribution to the financing of the perpetual obligations.
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Investing with foresight
The RAG-Stiftung pursues an investment strategy with foresight: profitable, safe and resilient.
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Education as a key to the future
The PepperMint learning portal aims to add fun to the STEM subjects and close knowledge gaps.
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Developing solutions with science
As part of the MuSE project, the FZN is optimising water management in the former mining regions.
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Shaping integration – yesterday and today
The topic of integration is inextricably linked with coal mining – as exemplified by the special exhibition ‘Wir sind von hier’ with photographs by Ergun Çağatay.
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