Frankfurt, Germany – Germany has established a network of 12 hubs in 16 cities that focus on hot topics relevant to industrial digital trans - formation. The hubs feature key themes, including virtual reality and 360 video, 3D metal printing, artificial intelligence, smart city, media tech, mobility, cybersecurity, cloud and cognitive computing, 5G, ehealth, blockchain and other 4.0 technologies.

The hubs are run by independent operators that are their own legal entities. Some of the hubs were founded by individuals, while others are backed by research institutions or municipal authorities.

The hubs are designed to assist early stage incubator and growth stage accelerator companies. The hubs provide companies with inno - vative co-working spaces, help in generating venture capital funding and other resources.

“We try to be the playing ground … where businesses can emerge from,” said Hugo Paquin, marketing manager for Frankfurt-based digi - tal hub TQ. TQ provides co-working space to members who pay 130 euro a month for access to a “floating desk,” among other support ser - vices provided by the facility.

Several companies involved in the hubs have been seeking addi - tional venture capital funding from Silicon Valley and attending conferences such South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, in hopes of generating visibility.

Plug and Play

The Digital Hub Initiative joins a healthy crop of players in the Euro - pean startup game, according to Media giants such as Europe’s leading publisher, Axel Springer, Norway’s Schibsted, Swe - den’s Bonnier and Germany’s Hubert Burda Media have become active investors who operate venture capitalist portfolios made up of mostly of e-commerce brands and marketplaces.

Two common strategies for traditional media companies involve in - vesting in replacing the losses of the classified section while diversify - ing into a range of consumer marketplaces versus, or sometimes paired with, capturing accelerated technology that will reshape media and continue to evolve.

Berlin-based Axel Springer now manages and invests in a portfolio of more than a hundred companies that went through the Axel Springer Plug and Play Accelerator. The accelerator is operated in partnership with the Plug and Play Tech Center, an international startup accelerator in Sunnyvale, California. In business since 1990, the tech center has housed companies such as Google, PayPal and Dropbox.

Axel Springer’s Digital Ventures team has backed ventures including Caroobi (for cars) and Airbnb, and the firm’s accelerator has invested in more than a hundred startups such as digital bank N26, boat rental marketplace Zizoo and influencer-brand marketplace blogfoster.

For more information on the Digital Hub Initiative, email Germany Trade & Invest at or visit

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