TBY talks to Ismail Arı, General Manager of Teknopark Istanbul, on the growth of the park and the importance of R&D for Turkey.
Can you describe the various stages and levels of development?
Our project, the Advanced Technology Industrial Park and Airport Project (ITEP), was planned in 1987 by the government and the initial phase of land acquisition took 10 years. Next, there were three phases that included an airport, a city hospital to cater to health tourism, and a high-tech campus. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport was completed in 10 years including the connecting highways. After 2005, Turkish Airlines, Pegasus, and other local airlines started coming here. In 2010, Teknopark Istanbul was incorporated. Seven kilometers of underground gallery systems carrying energy, water, and internet utility lines throughout the campus have been installed. There are six R&D buildings currently allocated for the use of our R&D tenant companies. Since the parcelization and infrastructure are completed, investors are willing to locate their centers of excellence at our campus. We plan to grow over the next few years from hundreds of R&D companies to thousands. The total budget of ongoing projects is estimated at $500-600 million, and will hopefully double over the coming few years.
Do you tend to strike a balance between international and domestic investors?
Our strategic aim is to host both global or local R&D companies and to become a “glocal" center of innovation. We have a well-balanced office park consisting of global companies such as GE, Siemens, and SAP, and many local ones. These are the main companies that are globally present, and they focus on aerospace, energy, and automation, which are our main areas. We can attract global names, but in terms of company count there will be more locals than globals, which is a natural occurrence.
What skill sets and success indicators do you look for in selecting people for this opportunity?
Right now we are more focused on people with PhDs and field experts. The average age at our incubation center is relatively higher. We also prioritize people with projects that have already been awarded funds and grants by public or private institutions.
What partnerships do you have abroad with other science and technology parks (STP) in order to develop a shared expertise?
Technological peering and cooperation are vital in our sector. We sign MoUs with the most prestigious STPs in the world to increase our international visibility. We try to base the relations on market potential and know-how exchange. We want both givers and takers, who understand our position on growth and the direction we are headed in today.
How can the technology park help Turkey to become a center for excellence and regional hub?
In order to achieve this goal, we have established a cluster focused on defense and aviation. Turkish Airlines is relocating its MRO Center from Atatürk International Airport to Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, and hopefully we will have the design and modification clusters here, too. On the other hand, we provide business matchmaking days to attract businesses from the defense and aviation sectors. There is a ranking in Turkey today among STPs called an Impact Evaluation Index, and we intend to top it over the coming years given our rapid growth.
What differentiates Teknopark Istanbul from other international technology parks?
Our focus areas are the key differentiators. Most technology parks abroad are 70% ICT focused. However, our ratios are 70% industrial companies in aerospace, defense, biotechnology, and marine technology, and 30% ICT. We believe that these value-added sectors have a huge impact on decreasing our dependency rate on imports.
© The Business Year - May 2015