T-DEB Smart Cities Discovery Trip: A ‘Smart’ Way to Connect UK and Turkey
Tekiu Discovery Trip at Cambridge Cleantech

T-DEB Smart Cities Discovery Trip: A ‘Smart’ Way to Connect UK and Turkey

Facilitating and promoting R&D collaborations between Turkey and the UK, our Innovate UK-backed Newton Fund project T-DEB has now completed Phase 2, where Turkish companies attended bespoke Discovery Trips – or missions – to the UK. Our final cohort comprised companies from the Smart Cities strand of our programme, providing intelligent and creative solutions to growing needs of 21st century urban living.

Ranging from cooperative intelligent transport systems to smart energy management solutions, T-DEB companies and Tekiu first crafted an outreach strategy to contact companies and organisations of interest, then scheduling back-to-back meetings in person in the UK. All the while, our team mobilised their efforts for organising two networking events, one of which was to be centred around a Smart Cities panel that involved reflecting on discussion topics and handpicking panelists.

Following weeks of coaching, preparatory teleconferences, and meticulous planning, our Smart Cities Discovery Trip kicked off on 10th June, coinciding with the AI Festival CogX and London Tech Week – a conscious choice on Tekiu’s part to increase the opportunities of meeting like-minded professionals who are flocking into London for these events. The morning started with a welcome session at Cass Business School, thanks to our kind hosts Dr Weiping Wu and Dr Yu Wi. Guided by our Managing Director Dr Cindy Regalado and T-DEB Senior Advisor Gökhan Çelebi, Turkish companies found the opportunity to polish their pitching and networking skills with immediate feedback from our team. The session continued with a presentation by Niraj Saraf, Programme Manager of the Newton Fund, defining smart city’s aim to ‘enhance the quality of its citizens through smart technology’. The smart city concept has evolved from being technology driven to citizen co-creation, where the latter focused on ‘equity and social inclusion’. During his presentation Mr Saraf stressed the urgency of working together and incorporating a collaborative approach to city management to address pressing issues in today’s cities.

The Turkish delegation then headed to Tekiu’s offices for their much-anticipated face-to-face meetings with potential partners, discussing the scope of T-DEB and exploring further synergies together. Sponsored by Huckletree Shoreditch and moderated by Dr Regalado, our Smart Cities panel discussed what the future holds for SMEs with Nicola Millson from the Connected Places Catapult, Metin Barış from Parabol, and Yhonny Raich from Where Is My Transport, followed by lively networking – see our detailed blog post on the panel here.

The second day of the Discovery Trip was densely packed to make the most out of the delegates’ short visit. We began with an early train ride to Cambridge on a drizzly day to meet Cambridge Cleantech and Smart Cambridgeshire. After an introduction to T-DEB by Dr Regalado, our host Martin Garratt, CEO of Cambridge Cleantech and Gemma Schroeder from Smart Cambridgeshire presented their initiatives and current work. This was followed by  ‘speed-networking’ with UK companies facilitated by Cambridge Cleantech, and involved 8 partnering tables with 15 minutes slots to explore opportunities with Cambridge-based companies. The visit ended with a tour of the Cleantech Incubator, and the delegation travelled back to London to continue their meetings and attend London Tech Week. Later that evening, at the Royal Veterinary College, our second networking event took place with companies and organisations keen to meet our Turkish companies. We had the honour of welcoming the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce TBCCI’s Director Mahmut Sinoplu and Innovate UK’s Niraj Saraf.

The final day of our Discovery Trip commenced with a closing workshop, where companies reflected on their meetings and interactions over the past two days and learned about the next steps of the programme, which will facilitate capacity development for successful collaborations between UK and Turkish companies. The Discovery Trip ended with an official visit to the Turkish Embassy for a private meeting with Ambassador Ümit Yalçın, who welcomed Tekiu and Turkish companies, and answered questions regarding the trade relations and opportunities in the midst of Brexit talks.

Moving onto Phase 3, we are very proud of what our selected Turkish companies from all themes have achieved so far: Not only did they execute an immense outreach strategy and secure several meetings, but they were also able to forge promising relations with UK companies and organisations that can benefit both countries.

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