– responsible for implementing the communication and dissemination activities in SMART4FUTURE – conducted a series of interviews with the project partners.
Introducing Sabanci University internationally recognized as one of the most innovative and research-oriented universities in Turkey. Within the scope of these programs, Sabanci University offers a highly interdisciplinary education to approximately 4400 undergraduate and 1000 graduate students. In 2016 and 2017, Sabanci University ranked 1st on Turkey’s Innovative and Entrepreneurship University Index prepared in the leadership of TÜBİTAK (Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey). In 2023, Sabanci University has been ranked among the top 500 universities in the world and 1st in Turkey according to The World University Rankings.
Hello Berna and Kerem! Thank you for this opportunity to meet you and talk about SMART4FUTURE. To kick-off, could you give us, in your own words, a short introduction to Sabanci University, and your role there?
Sabanci University (SU) was established in 1996 in Istanbul. SU has been running 11 undergraduate, 52 masters and 17 PhD programs under 3 faculties. The university has 8 multidisciplinary research centers focusing on various fields such as nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing technologies, data analytics, energy, finance, gender and women studies. SU offers a highly interdisciplinary education with flexible curriculum to approximately 4400 undergraduate and 1000 graduate students. There are 289 full-time and 148 temporary faculty members working in three faculties.
Sabanci University is one of the leading research universities in Turkey. In 2022, the university has been ranked 44th in the Emerging Economies University Rankings. Sabanci Business School has been ranked 67th among European Business Schools in FT rankings in 2021. In “Turkey’s Most Innovative and Enterprising University Index”, Sabanci ranked 2nd among all universities in Turkey, 1st among universities in Istanbul.
We are both faculty members at Sabanci Business School. Berna has been a faculty member at Sabanci University since 2015. She teaches entrepreneurship, technology commercialization, innovation, and technology management. Berna also serves as vice dean of Sabanci Business School. Kerem join our faculty in 2020 and works on strategy, decision-making and entrepreneurship.
To someone who is still not familiar with SMART4FUTURE, how would you describe it in simple terms, and how do you distinguish it from other projects or initiatives?
SMART4FUTURE project aims to support the capacity-building process of higher education institutes (HEIs) in innovation and entrepreneurship by encouraging collaboration and knowledge and experience sharing among participant HEIs and other organizations. In this project, our aim is to create all necessary preconditions for establishing participant higher education institutes as focal points of local and regional innovation ecosystems in 6 regions, such as Dublin, Naples, Zagreb, Istanbul, Belgrade, and Lublin. By this project we will be able to build and improve our capacity as a HEI by creating new start-up support mechanisms, mentoring schemes, improving technology transfer and by establishing new types of collaborations with external partners. We think that this project gives us a good opportunity to improve innovation and entrepreneurship culture in our university and to achieve a sustainable institutional change to support entrepreneurial thinking and doing. In that sense, this project will achieve more sustainable transformations in all participant HEIs.
Sabanci University is the leader in mapping local and regional innovation ecosystems, assessing its needs and challenges. Could you tell us more about the process and which will be the main outcomes?
SMART4FUTURE teams are located at various regions and all these regions are characterized by different local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems. Our teams aim to build and improve their own capacities, make their universities a focal actor of the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in their region, and to design new activities and support schemes in collaboration with their stakeholders to meet their needs. To serve these purposes, one of our first actions is to understand and analyse the main characteristics and specificities of each local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem, the main stakeholders in these local ecosystems and their needs and challenges. Each co-creation team analyses their local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems at seven dimensions including such as general business climate, public policies, financial environment, skilled labour, societal norms, and culture to support innovation and entrepreneurship, and so on. Then each team identifies the stakeholders in its own local ecosystem and then assesses each stakeholder based on their relevancy and interest to the project and its objectives. Based on these evaluations, stakeholder maps are created for each region. As a third step, co-creation teams prepare their own lists of needs and challenges to contribute to their local and regional innovation systems. The outcome of these efforts will be the development of effective and specialized support programs to improve innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems in each region by the contribution of our participated HEIs. So, for each region and participant HEI, specialized support programs to contribute to their local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem will be proposed.
Your role is also to lead the development of successful startup mechanisms at the project’s HEI. Could you tell us more about the methodology to be implemented and the importance of the collaboration from all partner HEIs on this issue?
One of our objectives in SMART4FUTURE is to prepare a guidebook to develop successful support mechanisms at participant HEIs. Understanding each participant HEI’s conditions and developing innovation and entrepreneurship support mechanisms based on these conditions, and finally crafting a plan for the implementation of these mechanisms are critical steps we need to take. Therefore, first, we will review all possible innovation and entrepreneurship support mechanisms and the preconditions of implementing these support mechanisms. Second, one-to-one meetings with each team at participant HEIs will be held to understand their specific conditions, capabilities and resources. For each participant HEI, an assessment report will be prepared, possible support mechanisms will be selected, and implementation plans for these support mechanisms will be crafted. Implementation plans will cover the milestones and performance indicators of each support mechanism. How these implementation plans work will be reviewed and if necessary, revisions will be made to the plans in consensus with the participant HEIs.
What are you personally most enthusiastic in regard to SMART4FUTURE??
Berna: I am personally most enthusiastic about joint-learning and co-creation opportunities provided by SMART4FUTURE. Throughout this project, we will create joint training programs for all, we will build and create new and effective mechanisms to support and improve the entrepreneurial mind-set and activities of students, academic and non-academic members of our institutes and most importantly we will find new ways and channels to contribute our local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems.
Kerem: SMART4FUTURE is a great platform to introduce cutting-edge and innovative entrepreneurship methods to our respective ecosystems through a collaborative curriculum. I believe that this project will have a strong ripple effect across the ecosystems and will enable and empower a wide range of future entrepreneurs.
How do you see the project legacy regarding achievements and partners collaboration in SMART4FUTURE, at Institutional, National and European levels?
At the institutional level, we believe that the long-lasting legacy of this project will be the empowerment of our students, academic and non-academic staff, and the creation of an encouraging and supportive environment for all innovative and entrepreneurial activities. Also, investment in entrepreneurial mind-set among our students and members will be project legacy as well.
As a university we are at the intersection of various local and regional innovation systems and we serve to the empowerment of the local ecosystems around Istanbul. Through this project, we will increase and enrich our contribution to the development of the local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Assistant Professor at Sabanci Business School
Associate Professor at Sabanci Business School
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