Newton Fund project T-DEB has reached a particularly exciting stage: selected Turkish companies have started taking part in Discovery Trips to the UK!
Discovery Trips are Tekiu’s flagship service of tailor-made visits for the purposes of international benchmarking through new insights, experiences and, of course, valuable contacts for partnerships in cross-border innovation. In other words, they are the very climax of the T-DEB programme that started with a series of workshops in Turkey to identify innovative companies and that will eventually conclude with another series of events showcasing best partnerships forged throughout the programme.
After months of preparation, ranging from fine-tuning partnering objectives through technical calls with the Tekiu team to making initial contacts with potential partners, T-DEB’s first cohort of Turkish companies have now concluded their Discovery Trip while other cohorts are still eagerly preparing for their turn. The first cohort was Health & Life Sciences consisting of dozen impressive companies with a rich sectoral diversity, ranging from IoT-powered elderly care solutions to physical therapy technologies.
Beyond the sectoral diversity, each company also enjoyed a distinct Discovery Trip experience as part of a brief yet intense few days in the UK: while some of them took the opportunity to meet the potential partner companies they had lined up after weeks of online exchanges, others were more keen to take part in open networking sessions, visiting expos or even travelling up to join Liverpool’s biotech meet-up. It was clear to us from the beginning that one-size-fits-all approach in partnership building activities is ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst, and indeed as some companies proactively explored long-term opportunities at their own pace, the success of some of the other companies signing paperwork formalising their partnerships was a testimony to that belief in following tailor-made approaches.
Surely, there were also plenty of joint sessions and activities, which also led to strengthening relationships between participating Turkish companies. First of those joint programming attended by all was the foremost lesson on the UK healthcare ecosystem — working with the NHS, as explained by Dr Parry of South East Health Technologies Alliance (SEHTA).
That highly informative and candidly entertaining lecture was followed by a hands-on rigorous training on elevator pitches and networking, a key business skills that is not intuitive to all cultures – hence the necessary introduction to the UK way of doing things! It needs to be said, of course, that both sessions were kindly hosted at the premises of Turkish Trade Center in Clerkenwell, one of the many supportive partners T-DEB has had the privilege of collaborating with.
Skills gained at the T-DEB training were put into practice at the networking sessions co-hosted by our partners such as the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Royal Veterinary College. As one of our T-DEB companies remarked, it may be hard to tell by the look of the giant elephant skeleton at the RVC hall where the networking drinks were held, but there we stood in London’s first bioscience innovation centre, and the T-DEB companies were also given an exclusive tour of Prokarium, a former Newton Fund biotech company operating right there.
As might be expected from a healthcare-oriented cohort, biotech stands as the most common area of focus of all. For that reason, the cohort also enjoyed a warm welcome at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, a leading player in the UK’s bioscience ecosystem. In addition to networking session over lunch, Turkish companies participated in the Babraham’s members briefing session (on the issue of none other than Brexit and intellectual property), experiencing first-hand the functioning of a research-led industry body that not only supports innovation but keeps tabs on all issues that have impact on the industry.
T-DEB is a programme that facilitates Turkish-British partnerships, for innovation has no borders and the national boundaries cannot be the boundaries of businesses seeking to address societal challenges. Meeting with the Turkish Ambassador, where we were joined by Janet Geddes of Innovate UK, our team had a moment of reflection on this ambitious objective of T-DEB: bringing Turkish and British innovation ecosystems closer — needless to say perhaps, it is an ambition reflected in the programme’s cheeky name, Turkish Delights & English Breakfast (Tea!).
Indeed, our meeting with the Ambassador could not be a better time to remember this, not only because we sipped tea and had delicious Turkish delights as if to remind us what the programme’s abbreviation stands for, but particularly because hearing the Ambassador’s enthusiasm about the societal role Turkish-British partnerships play was encouraging as we continue to take the steps in the direction of deepening collaborations.
As they emerge, nascent partnerships may be small steps for the T-DEB companies, but undoubtedly a big step for Turkish-British partnerships in innovation, inspiring others to follow (such as the next Discovery Trip cohort, to begin with).