The Innovative Entrepreneurship Project

Within the Turkish Cypriot community (TCc) there are some 17,800 registered Small Medium Enterprise (SMEs) with some 40% of these based in Nicosia. A high percentage of TCc businesses are in the hospitality and retail sectors. The level of ICT based or more innovative businesses is low with the majority of businesses being in low tech/low innovation and low value added sectors, such as trade and services.

SME’s are fundamental to the European economy and represent 99% of the total business population in the EU.  These businesses provide some 85% of new jobs and two thirds of overall private sector employment. The ‘business birth rate’ and levels of entrepreneurial activity are critical to the economic wellbeing of an area.  In addition the level of innovation in new and existing businesses contributes to the success of enterprises and their ability to grow and compete in export markets.  In a knowledge based environment the private sector, public sector and the education sector all have complimentary functions resulting in a tripartite approach and high levels of innovation.

The enterprise culture within the TC’c is seen as being weak and the enterprise support system requires significant development.  Turkish Cypriots generally do not see setting up an innovative entrepreneurial business as a real career destination.

The EU funded  Innovative Entrepreneurship project aims to:

  1. Increase the levels of interest in self -employment/ entrepreneurship
  2. Increase the levels of small business start-up growth and survival
  3. Improve the support structures to support new business start up
  4. Increase the levels of innovation activity for new business, existing business, education and research
  5. Develop a sustainable enterprise/ business innovation centre HUB – as the heartbeat of innovation and outreach structures

NI-CO HQ & NI-CO Nicosia Team

Front L-R: Melike Kalkan – Project Co Ordinator, Gonca Aslan – Project Support, Grainne Quinn – Project Director, Dervla Weir – Finance Manager
Back L-R: John Mckinney – Strategic Advisor, Mustafa Erk – Business Advisor, Brian Murray – Entrepreneur In Residence

NI-CO have been appointed by the European Union to deliver the Innovative Entrepreneurship project for the Turkish Cypriot community over the period January 2019 to December 2021. Since its establishment in 1992, NI-CO has delivered over 600 contracts in more than 100 countries on behalf of a range of funding agencies. NI-CO is a Northern Ireland based not for profit, public body dedicated to the pursuit of building efficient, accountable and sustainable public sector institutions capable of implementing positive change and delivering excellence with integrity. We employ 21 staff in our Belfast Head Office with 8 staff based in our Nicosia branch.

The Team

Patricia Devine

NI-CO Entrepreneur in Residence

Patricia is a Chartered Accountant with experience of working in both the private and public sector in Northern Ireland. She has more than 27 years’ experience in local economic development and has worked with start-up and established businesses across a range of sectors. She has also developed and managed business support strategies and programmes, working closely with local stakeholder, more laterally in the area of entrepreneurship.


David Bradshaw

NI-CO Entrepreneur in Residence

David is a graduate in Business and Finance and holds post graduate qualification in management. His career started with DuPont UK manufacturing their ‘Lycra’ product. In 1993 David began work in economic development with Omagh Enterprise Company and subsequently Invest NI, the economic development agency for Northern Ireland. David has 27 years’ experience in dealing with start-ups and established businesses in a variety of sectors. His specific areas of expertise include economic policy, business planning, financial modelling, social economy, finance training & lecturing.


Melike Kalkan

Project Coordinator

After completion of her higher education in Business and Social Anthropology, following various experience in Erasmus+ programmes abroad; Melike started working with the European Union funded projects in Cyprus in 2015. She is working as the Project Coordinator of Innovative Entrepreneurship project since March 2019.


Mustafa Erk

Business Advisor / Project Support

After completing his higher education in Mechanical Engineering in the UK, Mustafa returned to Cyprus in 2003 and he has been providing technical investment consultancy services in various areas of the private sector in Cyprus and abroad as a manager and entrepreneur. He works as a part-time Business Advisor for the Innovative Entrepreneurship project and coordinates the “Into Business” programme.


Doğa Oktan

Project Communications Officer

After completing her higher education in English Language Literature and Public Relations in the UK, following a master’s degree in English Language Teaching, Doğa started working at different educational institutions and a university. She has more than 9 years of experience in the education sector. She has been working as a Communications Officer for Innovative Entrepreneurship Project since March 2020.


Balkız Kandulu

Administrative Officer

Balkız completed her undergraduate education in Economics and her master's degree in Human Resources. She has 10 years of experience in the private sector and civil society organizations in the field of projects and human resources. Since July 2020, she has been working as the Administrative Officer of the Innovative Entrepreneurship project.


Merve Keser O’Donnell

Administrative and Finance Officer

After completing her undergraduate education in Japanese Language and Literature, she has been working in private and civil organisations for more than 10 years. Currently, she is working as an Administrative and Finance Officer for Innovative Entrepreneurship Project since January 2021.


Övge Hürkal

Administrative and Finance Officer

Övge is a member of Association of Chartered Certified Accountants with experience of working in the private sector for more than 8 years and has worked with start-up and established businesses across a range of sectors. She started working with the European Union funded projects in Cyprus in 2019. She has been working as the Administrative and Finance Officer of the Innovative Entrepreneurship project since July 2021.