Menschen im Kreis stehend

Welcome to the Ruhr Conference!

Potential for innovation and prosperity

The Ruhr region is unique in Germany when it comes to population, student numbers, cultural activities and its economic output. For many years the area was an engine of prosperity and innovation – and the Ruhr can reclaim that status by rising to the challenges posed by a changing society.

The Ruhr Conference in a nutshell? 73 projects to make the region a better place. Find out more about the details in the Progress Report 2020 (Status: August 2020).

What exactly is the Ruhr region?

The Ruhr has much to offer. Resources include ideal sites for firms and start-ups, affordable rents, good schools, great leisure amenities, greenery and nature in abundance - and people who stick together and can embrace change.
The 53 cities, towns and villages in the Ruhr, Emscher and Lippe valleys are most effective in realising their potential when they liaise with colleges, clubs, associations, firms, charitable foundations, research institutes and other organisations - because teamwork is the Ruhr’s key to success, dynamism and quality of life in the digital age.

Living in the Ruhr region, means living in the future.
Ina Scharrenbach, Minister of Regional Identity, Communities and Local Government, Building and Gender Equality

What is the Ruhr Conference's objective?

The Ruhr area is looking to move to the next level in its development, which is why Conference participants have been designing projects geared to all sectors of society: business, science, culture, sport, tourism and others. The sheer range of project proposals reflects the opportunities open to the Ruhr and the great potential of the region.

Building on collaboration between citizens and institutions, the Ruhr Conference organises other networks and partnerships. Great achievements are the result of joint efforts. That motto always held true in the Ruhr – and it’s key to the evolution of the modern metropolitan region.

Among the many instances of proud accomplishments are:

  • The Emscher Park International Architecture Exhibition, a long-term project beginning in 1989 with the approach to restructure the regional planning culture holistically
  • The Ruhr.2010 Capital of Culture, a EU initiative giving each year another city – or as in this case: an entire region – the chance to showcase its cultural life and development
  • The UA Ruhr, an alliance between Ruhr University Bochum, TU Dortmund University and the University of Duisburg-Essen, the three biggest schools in the region
  • Companies such as Ruhr Tourismus and Business Metropole Ruhr of the Regional Association RVR with their focus on tourism or business development respectively

What is its back story?

The Ruhr Conference’s three-phase process of transformation: Listening – Taking Decisions – Executing. Phase I began in April 2018 with a presentation by Minister President Armin Laschet. In his words, it was to be a trail-blazer conference, not a crisis conference.

After the regional parliament elections in May 2017, the Christian-Democrats (CDU) and the Liberal-Democrats (FDP), two political parties in Germany, enter into a coalition, one of whose objectives is to conduct a conference with a view to drawing up a vision for the future of the Ruhr area. The social and economic actors in the metropolitan region are to be actively involved in the deliberations of the Conference. In his formal statement in September 2017, Minister President Armin Laschet reiterates a message delivered in the Conference in 1988, saying that now, just as then, there is a need for a re-doubling of efforts to bring about structural transformation. He announces the convening of the Ruhr Conference.

From October 2017 to March 2018 Minister President Armin Laschet and the Minister for Federal, European and International Affairs, Dr. Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner, engage with stakeholders located in the Ruhr area. In April 2018 Minister President Armin Laschet presents the concept of the Ruhr Conference at a meeting of the Initiativkreis Ruhr,  a business alliance representing more than 70 regional enterprises and organizations, in Essen. It is conceived as a process that will lead to the creation of theme-based forums in which all departments of the state government will take an active part and at the apex of which a minister will work closely with co-facilitators pushing for action on their respective issues.

Who is running it?

The Ruhr Conference will be under the aegis of Minister Dr. Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner, assisted by a committee consisting of Arndt G. Kirchhoff, the President of the North Rhine-Westphalian Federation of  Employers Associations, Anja Weber, the Chairwoman of the DGB NRW (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund Nordrhein-Westfalen), which is the state chapter of the German Trade Union Confederation, and the Bishop of Essen, Dr. Franz-Josef Overbeck.

Who has a say and who benefits from it?

It was clear from the outset that the momentum to be generated for the Ruhr had to be felt in all areas of society. Each state-government ministry, with its respective remit, has a part to play in the positive development of the Ruhr metropolitan region. In a session held in the Ruhr on 31st August 2018 as part of NRW Day in Essen, the state government passes a resolution establishing the Ruhr Conference. The 20 individual forums are set up with the task of submitting proposals for projects.
Private citizens are also able to participate via an online platform. Several hundred ideas are submitted in this way.


How does the conference actually work?

Forum participants spend the first half of 2019 drawing up over 75 projects in over 50 meetings and proposing them to the state government.

From July to October 2019 the state government discusses the proposals with trade associations, local authorities and chambers of commerce, industry and crafts and consults on a strategy aimed at bundling them into action sectors. In two public townhall meetings in Oberhausen and Hagen, Minister-President Armin Laschet and Minister Dr. Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner discusse the developments with interested citizens local citizens at meetings in the townhalls of Oberhausen and Hagen.

State government and local authorities achieve a consensus in favour of tackling the subject of old debts outside the Ruhr Conference and as a part of consultations with federal government on the findings of the Equal Living Conditions Commission.

In its cabinet meeting on 5th November 2019 the state government defines five action sectors to be designated as “Ruhr Regions of Opportunity”. The 73 remaining project proposals are consigned to one or other of these sectors and work on them begins. The Ruhr Conference continues to be an open process, with the prospect of other projects being successfully completed in the coming years, if they further the aims set out for the five action sectors.