TOBB ETÜ GARAGE is a frequently heard of but rarely understood unit of our school. We thought, it would be a good idea, on the occasion of the ‘Entrepreneurship Week’, to have an interview responding to the questions you may have, encouraging new ideas in your minds, and supporting entrepreneurship, with Duygu Berberoğlu, an entrepreneurship expert from the Technology Transfer Office. Have fun reading it.

  • Ms. Berberoğlu, what would be a straightforward description of Tobb Etü GARAGE? What do the operations of the unit entail?

The entrepreneurship activities organized within the framework of TOBB ETÜ Technology and Transfer Office (TOBB ETÜ TTO) are executed under two separate modules: GARAGE Incubator (TOBB ETÜ TTO Accelerator Program) and BiGG GARAGE (GARAGE-YAP [Innovative Anatolia Project]). GARAGE is an incubator operated by TOBB ETÜ TTO Entrepreneurship Staff. The teams which file an application submitting business plans and then got accepted are offered pre-incubator and incubator services within the framework of TOBB ETÜ TTO Accelerator Program. Furthermore, the Project Development Unit, Project Management Department, and Industrial Property Rights Unit of TTO also support potential entrepreneurs.

  • Can you provide some detailed information about the BİGG GARAGE program supporting young entrepreneurs?

BiGG GARAGE is essentially a program implemented as the GARAGE-YAP (Innovative Anatolia Project) within the framework of the BiGG (Individual Young Enterprise) program we implement as part of the Support for Capacity Development in 1601 Areas of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at TOBB ETÜ TTO, with the support of TUBITAK. Other stakeholders of the project implemented at the GARAGE incubator by TOBB ETÜ TTO Entrepreneurship Unit are Tepav (The Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey) and Viveka (Incubation Center). Within the framework of BiGG, TUBITAK identified 17 implementing agencies. TOBB ETÜ TTO is one of them. TUBITAK structured the BiGG program as a framework comprising two stages. Since the last year, the first stage is implemented by the implementing agencies, while TUBITAK itself takes an active part in the second stage, for the selection of the entrepreneur candidates nominated and trained by the implementing agencies. At TOBB ETÜ TTO, we listen to technology- and innovation-focused business ideas within the framework of BiGG GARAGE, which is the unique name given to our part of the program.

  • OK then; what kind of a time frame does this program cover, and what does it entail?

The program is implemented in a time frame of a few months, with reference to the calls for applications TUBITAK issues. In contrast to other 16 implementing agencies of the BiGG program, at BiGG GARAGE, we had promotion meetings in 11 provinces, and trainings in 7 provinces throughout the last year. In this period, in turn, we will have promotion meetings in 23 provinces, and trainings and mentoring in 13. Through this process we contact the Chambers of Commerce, Chambers of Industry, and Commodity Exchanges in the relevant provinces; act in coordination with TOBB Young Entrepreneurs Board and Female Entrepreneurs Board; and intend to bring prospective entrepreneurs together with experienced members of the industry.

  • What do the application process and the steps to follow it look like?

TUBITAK did not issue the call for the current year yet; however, in contrast to other agencies, we started with the promotions and completed the trainings already, as we have a very busy schedule. The process flows as follows: in May and June we held promotion meetings in 23 provinces, talking about BiGG, BiGG Grarage, and the evaluation criteria of TUBITAK etc., followed in July-October by Entrepreneurship and Business Plan Preparation trainings in 13 selected provinces. The coming months will see efforts to increase the competences of the entrepreneurs about their projects, through online trainings, as well as to support them in authoring business plans. Thereafter, we intend to provide one-on-one mentoring services for each potential entrepreneur which succeeds in the preliminary assessment with reference to their business plans, coupled with vertical trainings dedicated to individual project areas. Furthermore, by organizing workshops dedicated to specific fields, we try to have mentors focusing on individual fields working with entrepreneurs while implementing their projects. The last leg of the process sees the assignment of a mentor/coach for each potential entrepreneur, to attend the latter’s work, and support the project and the entrepreneur. By doing so, we ultimately want to transform a business idea to a better qualified business model.

  • Are there any training programs you intend to implement within the framework of GARAGE, for the purposes of the larger program?

Of course. We have 6-12 months-long programs with reference to the characteristics of the applicant project, for business plans implemented in GARAGE. The teams included in GARAGE graduate from the incubator center if they fulfill the business packages concerning the project, as per the accelerator contract we sign with them. Thanks to the model we will develop within the framework of our cooperation with Technopark Ankara, we intend to offer a number of distinct opportunities. Currently we offer a number of trainings for our entrepreneurs, including Intellectual and Industrial Property Rights training, Entrepreneurship training, Business Plan Preparation training, and Support Programs training. On the other hand, we offer tangible and intangible means to take part in various organizations, and try to provide tangible and intangible support for the activities the entrepreneurs at GARAGE may want to organize.

  • There certainly will be some young potential entrepreneurs who intend to file an application for the program in line with the information you provided. Are there any specific conditions applicable for applications?

Any technology- and innovation-based project can apply for a place in our program. Of course, the team leader should meet the criteria set by TUBITAK. For instance, students who are about to graduate from a bachelor’s degree program within one year, as well as master’s or Ph.D students and individuals who had received their bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. degrees within the last 10 years, can file an application for BiGG GARAGE, as a team leader presenting their business ideas. Other members of the team are not required to meet these conditions though.

At GARAGE, we offer business development support, office facilities etc. for technological projects and projects with commercialization potential in a number of fields including energy, defense, and health in particular, as well as for other potential entrepreneurs. In addition, we offer business development support to other projects filing applications with us, with the contributions of our TUBITAK-approved mentor.

  • What are the criteria for successful graduation from the program once all trainings are completed after the application stage?

A number of screening processes are in place in the BiGG GARAGE program. The potential entrepreneurs author their business plan on the basis of the information we provide through the trainings. Thereafter the business plans they submit to us go through a strict assessment on our part. Later on, the mentoring processes and online trainings start, with a view to enhancing the candidates’ business plans in coordination with them. The business plans they submit to us once again at the end of the whole process are subjected to yet another assessment on our part. The plans deemed successful are invited to make a presentation before our Jury. The candidates deemed successful with the presentation are then referred to TUBITAK, after a very busy process of project preparation. This settles the first stage of the program, the one executed by us, the implementing agencies. Then the second stage implemented by TUBITAK commences. TUBITAK organizes panel days categorized with reference to the field involved. Each candidate who is found successful in panel presentations is entitled to a grant of TRY 150,000. The criteria in question, along with the outputs of meetings held with TUBITAK from time to time, are shared with the candidates included in the program.

In case of our GARAGE Incubator program, on the other hand, the criteria applicable for admission into GARAGE refer to the qualifications and motivation of the applicant in terms of implementing her project, as well as a match of mutual expectations and facilities, and the physical availability of space in GARAGE.

  • What kind of support and opportunities are offered to the teams which successfully graduate?

The teams which implement their projects within the framework of the support program are then referred by the Technology Transfer Office to subsequent support programs. We continue to provide them project development and authoring services to these teams within the framework of such programs. On the other hand, we offer the teams the option to meet with firms and investors to match the field of their activities.

  • Could you please say a few words about the synergy all these acceleration programs contributes to the entrepreneurship ecosystem?

The acceleration programs offers the services needed by entrepreneur teams, in the form of packages, and provides the teams with a solution partner they can call for help on any matter regarding the implementation of their projects. It is rendered even more constructive through various programs structured within the framework of a number of institutions (for instance the area/sector focused workshops and mentoring activities we intend to carry out in the coming months, or through the opportunities offered by TOBB). On the other hand, we also have to emphasize the importance of the extensive capabilities and services acceleration programs executed at Technology Transfer Offices offer for potential entrepreneurs. Technical mentoring and laboratory capabilities as well as the experience and expertise of the academic staff, which can be made available due to the involvement of the university, coupled with the more qualified and organized nature of the process in the light of various elements of support provided by entities such as TUBITAK, EU, KOSGEB, and Development Agencies, lead to the development of a specific character for the recipients. To boot, built on a culture of entrepreneurship, which finds its expression in the emphasis on entrepreneurship-related courses, the university tries to provide numerous services the potential entrepreneurs may need, through the project management department, project development unit, intellectual and industrial property rights unit, and entrepreneurship unit implemented on a modular basis within the framework of the Technology Transfer Office.

  • Do you have anything to add for young entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs?

To date, 35 firms made use of the services we offered. In the next 2 years, we intend to expand the scope of the process and make some revisions in line with our regular practice, and reach out to a total of 35-40 start-ups. In this context, any potential entrepreneurs who have an enterprise idea based on technology and innovation, can contact us for applying to our program. Other entrepreneurs (potential or otherwise) are also welcome to receive our support, to the extent our means make it possible.

I want to thank Ms. Berberoğlu for the clear information she provided, and to conclude this piece with the contact details. If you have an innovative entrepreneurship idea, don’t waste any time, and act right now! For, at GARAGE, you have many supporters to help you with your idea!

Contact: Duygu Berberoğlu - TOBB ETÜ Technology Transfer Office, Specialist at the Entrepreneurship Unit



Interview: İpek Aksel - Gazete ETÜ