A Turkish Private Equity Web Log

In an effort to cover the Turkish Private Equity Industry - for the promotion of Entrepreneurship, the private equity asset-investment model, and the communication thereof.


TÜBİTAK Shuts Down Turkey’s Only Textile Research Center
This past week, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkiye (TÜBİTAK) announced that it will be liquidating its one and only Textile Research Center (TAM). The TAM was originally established by TÜBİTAK, the Turkish Textile Foundation and Aegean University. Apparently, it’s being shut down “not because of its successes,” but rather the center “would have had problems with its legal status following the end of another TÜBİTAK program – USAMP, the University-Industry Joint Research Centers Program.

Statistics Don’t Lie, People Do

On a more humorous, but unfortunate, note, TAM Deputy Director and lecturer at Aegean University’s Department of Textile Engineering, Professor Isil Tarakçioglu, announced to the press that she was so ashamed of the TAM budget that she lied about it to her international colleagues:
“At a meeting of the European Network of Textile Research Centers (TEXTRANET), members from Portugal, which has a population of 10 million, said that there were four research centers in their country and the budget of the smallest was 3 million euros. I was ashamed to say that the budget of our center is 300,000 euros so I said 1 million euros instead. Our country, which has the biggest textile industry in Europe, had a center with a budget of 300,000 euros but now they want to close it.” (Turkish Daily News, “Turkey’s only textile research center to be closed down”, Jan. 10, 2007)
Can you imagine being so insecure, and just to “save face” for national pride, that you would lie about a statistical fact that could easily be checked? Who does that?! I mean, if you’re going to lie, at least you should lie big. Example: With Turkey’s 70 million population and based on Portugal’s figures, proportionately our budget should have at least been €23 million. We should question whether TÜBİTAK condones liars in their midst that represent Turkey on the international stage, especially lies that are smartly admitted to the press. Although this may be merely a change of legal status for funding, this write-off of taxpayer money is a shame.

This confirms my suspicions that the “build it, and they will come” mentality of state-owned technoparks/institutions and their administrations is senseless without clear goals and good management. If you are not monetizing your research and creating revenue streams, you are up a creek without a paddle. The motivation here should not have been cushy jobs with continued government subsidy, but rather strict project action plans set down in proposals to spin-off research and to seek scheduled returns on investment.

Until we realize that innovation cannot be spurred through government-subsidized technoparks and institutes, we will continue to wallow in slow bureaucratic application procedures, unrealistic business proposals, Phd’s who only care about inflating their egos, and the continuation of stymied entrepreneurialism. Perhaps what we need here is a step in the opposite direction: a Fund-of-Funds. With increased education on formal business planning and entrepreneurship, the private sector and the VC industry (reinforced by a Fund-of-Funds and an increasing foreign/domestic investor pool) could multiply innovation 5x – 10x. Universities could continue to take limited subsidy, but should be standing on their own with the help of their tuitions, foundations, private donors and better alumni relations.

The fashion and textile industries in France and Italy have had their problems and are struggling. Outsourcing to Turkey and the “Made in Turkey” branding war is starting to take center stage, but we have a long way to go until we right-size our funding sources and realize our full potential. Nevertheless, TÜBİTAK plans to form a new program, “Projects to Establish Scientific Technological Cooperation Networks and Platforms,” in the place of USAMP. It will be interesting to see what form this takes in the future.

For an additional summary of TÜBİTAK, go to Turkey’s Science and Technology budgets during the 1990’s and their R&D landscape.


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Posted @ 23:01  
2 Comments:
  • At 1/22/2007 5:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ironically, one of very few eligible VC investments this scout found was in the textile sector. In the end we declined because the IP was of questionable provenance. In all likelihood unpatentable to the degree a US investor would require. Basically the local boys weren't accustomed to thinking of such things that might block them down the road. Pity.

    As an aside, nobody that mattered as the actual doers of the business really gave a hoot what Turkbitak or any university or technopark or famous names were up to other than tactical tax benefits in leases. That I saw as being positive long-term. The boys need to learn to compete starting at the bottom. Caveat being the legal frameworks are badly in need of updating and someone has to educate the officialdom. We did manage to draft an options contract independent of the incorporation contract that was vetted by lawyers for another project. So there are workarounds and more would be forthcoming if there were real competition on both demand and supply side for deals.

    As for the bigger question, with real interest rates North of 10% and sort-of manageable foreign currency risks I can't see easliy convincing anyone to invest in riskier assets for marginally more in Turkey.

    Finally, I commend your web site and hope it does not fall by the wayside as did TVCA. I didn't see a general discussion board. Hope it's OK I dropped my 2c worth here.

     
  • At 1/22/2007 12:35 PM, Blogger istanbulexpat said…

    Anonymous,
    Thank you for your comments. I would love to have discussion boards, but capital is thin at the moment.

    The long-term tax benefits are nice, I agree, but that shouldn't be your competitive advantage when setting up a business. Yes, the local boys are not accustomed.(full stop)

    Work-arounds cloud the picture, unfortunately.

    You bring up an excellent point about interest rates, but quite possibly this is the pivotal point when and if Turkey's economy improves, the VC asset investment model will take off, both supply-side and demand-side.

    Thanks again for your comments, I will not fall along the wayside like the TVCA. Your 2 cents are always welcome.

     
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