By Sebnem Burnaz, Istanbul Technical University (ITU)
The SME Cluster Growth project, aiming at empowering SMEs in the engineering sector to ensure their maturation and sustainable growth, is approaching its closing stages. The final partner meeting, hosted by Istanbul Technical University (ITU), was held in Istanbul, at ITU Magnet which offers a dynamic atmosphere.
Being located in the Technology Development Zone, ITU Magnet attracts late-stage startups with the ambition to grow. Its function is very much in parallel with the major purpose of the SME CG project. Its central location in the ITU campus, proximity to the technology companies at the science park, its know-how acquired from the deep-rooted past of ITU, laboratory facilities, comfortable working environment and innovative services make ITU Magnet a well-known centre for several events and meetings bringing stakeholders of the ecosystem together.
Project members representing the University of Alcala (UAH), University of Bologna (UNIBO), University of Malaga (UMA), Munster Technological University (MTU), University Industry Innovation Network (UIIN), Institut Mines-Telecom Business School (IMTBS), Crazy Town and Momentum Consulting attended the meeting. After the welcoming speech, a presentation about ITU and Istanbul’s Entrepreneurship Ecosystem was delivered by Dr. Alper Yurttas, from ITU. Then the preparations for the final report were discussed with the guidance of the project coordinator. Each partner gave a presentation on their particular work package along with the completed tasks and those that were nearing completion.
After lunch, we had the opportunity to visit the incubation centre, ITU Seed, located on the ground floor of the main building of the science park. Dr Yunis Ismayil, the manager of ITU Seed, guided us during the visit by showing us inside the centre with working spaces, maker studios, and laboratories and providing useful information about their activities and programs. Dr Ismayil has taken an active role in the Turkish entrepreneurship ecosystem for the last nine years of his career. ITU Cekirdek (Seed) Incubation Center was selected as the “Top Business Incubator” in the World by Sweden-based UBI Global in 2023. Every year the center accepts 500+ startups to its programs and has supported more than 4,200 startups and 9,500 entrepreneurs so far. The total investment received by these startups has reached 150 million dollars, and their valuation to 1.5 billion dollars. We were fascinated to chat with young founders of startups currently located in the incubation center: Harcy working on energy and clean technologies by producing insulation materials from textile waste and WearTechClub innovating in fabric-integrated sensor technology by offering smart activewear integrated into the mobile application which monitors health data, muscle and nerve movements. We left ITU Seed full of inspiration and hope for a better future…
The remaining work packages were presented in the second half of the meeting. The team worked hard using brainstorming and engaging in debates. We came up with a clear framework which can direct us towards the closure report of the project. We believe that hard work and belief in what we do will lead to achieving the intended project results.