The innovation and start-up centres are hot spots for innovation and entrepreneurial activities, because they combine different activities under one roof.
In times of increasing urbanisation processes regions need to ensure that smaller towns are not left behind. To reach this goal, Innovation and start-up Centres in small and medium-sized towns, such as the E.Novum in Lüneburg and the ISI Centre for Business, start-ups and Innovation in Buchholz, can make up a central component. They provide co-working spaces, offices for start-ups, shared facilities, rooms for events and networking, open workshops and thus space for start-up and innovation activities.
In addition, consulting activities for start-ups and established SMEs are provided under the same roof. Therefore, start-up and innovation centres have strong collaborations with local and regional innovation stakeholders, such as municipal business development agencies or research institutions. Joint events for enterprises, such as different kinds of discussion tables, take place on a regular basis.
In major cities and especially around bigger universities, those offers are common for several years, but in smaller towns they usually fill a gap, since many of the provided offers did not exist before.
The centres operate cross-sectoral, but with a clear focus on future technologies, digitalisation and creative industries.
Municipal business development agencies and associations with public and private members operate those centres.

Resources needed

The required financial resources vary depending on the size, place and equipment. The centres are operated and financed by municipal business development agencies or associations with public and private members. The construction of the ISI Centre was co-financed via ERDF.

Evidence of success

The evidence of achieved successes of this practice is provided mainly by the fact that several start-ups, which started in one of the start-up and innovation centres, have developed and moved to own buildings. The increased number of successful start-ups has a positive effect on the regional economy.
According to own surveys, the ISI Centre for Business, start-ups and Innovation had an occupancy rate of 95 % from the beginning. In addition, the calender of events is fully booked.

Potential for learning or transfer

The idea of the start-up and innovation centres could be transferred to other small and medium sized towns, which do not have such facilities yet.. The centres can become focal points across a region enabling flexible working, fresh synergies and entrepreneurial projects to gain momentum in rural areas.
The approach has already been transferred from big cities to smaller towns and in Germany there are already several start-up and innovation centres in small- and medium sized towns. Most of them were founded within the last years.
Consequently, such centres can be built up in other European regions as well.
Main institution
WLH – Business Development Agency County Harburg WLG - – Business Development Agency Lüneburg
Lüneburg, Germany (Deutschland)
Start Date
January 2015
End Date


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