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 2023. Since its establishment in 1992, NI-CO has delivered over 700 contracts in more than 119 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 22 staff in our Belfast Head Office with 18 staff based in our Nicosia branch.

The Team

Shaun Henry

Team Leader

Shaun has a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) and over 30 years’ experience of public and voluntary sector management. He has extensive experience of the strategic management and delivery of EU programmes, including leading the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Programme in Northern Ireland / Ireland. He has experience of managing programmes in a range of sectors including regional development, infrastructure, community development and rural development. He also has experience of leading business change in the public sector. Shaun has professional experience in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Romania and East Africa.

Patricia Devine

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.


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.


Şadiye Işısal

Administrative Officer

Şadiye completed her undergraduate degree in Management and Economics from the University of Essex, UK. During her master’s degree, she specialised in Development Economics from SOAS University of London. She received further studies also in Japan and Czech Republic. She is a development specialist focusing on developing countries' sectoral growth in the areas of education, environment and business economics. Şadiye previously worked as a Business Developer in an international company based in London and also has experience in the finance field. She had taken active roles in multi communal EU projects targeting development in Cyprus. Since June 2022, she has been working as the Administrative Officer of the Innovative Entrepreneurship project.


Tayfun Altaner

Administrative and Communications Officer

Tayfun completed his higher education in Forensic Science at the University of Kent, UK. After that, he closely worked with various non-governmental organisations in Asia, particularly Nepal and India. Tayfun returned to Cyprus in 2019 and got his first-ever education on entrepreneurship via Into Business Programme. With the help of this programme and many others in 2020, he established his micro-business in beekeeping and honey production. Since June 2022, he has been working as the Administrative and Communications Officer of the Innovative Entrepreneurship project.


Tanya Kennedy

Business Support Manager

Tanya is the in-country lead for the Safeguarding and Creating Employment Scheme – Phase II. She is responsible for delivering project outcomes and leading the team of professional Business Support Officers. Tanya brings over 30 years’ experience as a Business and Organisational Development Expert to the role having worked with public, private and third sector organisations at strategic and operational levels. She contributed to economic development in Northern Ireland as a strategic advisor with Invest Northern Ireland and, as a Director with Business in the Community, she advised over 200 business clients on corporate responsibility, community development and business growth. During this time, she was a member of a key strategic team responsible for driving cultural reform and community trust as part of the peace process in Northern Ireland. During the past ten years Tanya has supported a range of organisations across the UK and has been an international advisor on projects across Europe bringing expertise in business development, cultural change and capacity building.

Leyla Photo

Leyla Mahrum

Business Support Officer

Leyla returned to Cyprus after completing her undergraduate studies at METU and graduate studies at Manchester University. For 8 years, she worked as a business development expert and assistant general secretary at the Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Industry. She continued her carrier by working as a project management expert in European Union funded technical assistance teams. Her fields of work include management consultancy, project management, quality management systems and geographical indications. She has more than 10 years of experience in the private sector and continues her studies with a doctorate in business administration. She has been working as a Business Support Officer in the Innovative Entrepreneurship project since January 2022.

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Kemal Baykallı

Business Support Officer

Kemal studied International Relations and worked mainly in the fields of economic development, business consultancy, communications and advocacy. Previously, he worked for the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce for 9 years as Deputy Secretary General in charge of external relations, communications, EU matters (including the Green Line and Financial Aid Regulations), and bicommunal projects. He provided trainings and capacity development both locally and internationally in various countries. Specialized in Cyprus problem as a political analyst, he is also the founder and director of Island Talks, the first trilingual podcast station of Cyprus.


Hazal Yolga

Business Support Officer

After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, and Master’s degree in Communication, Culture, and Technology in the US, Hazal has worked in civil society coordinating various EU funded projects focusing on media and human rights, and as a researcher as part of the Cypriot Community Media Research Programme of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Since 2018, she has been supporting private sector companies as a consultant in the areas of business development, research, fundraising, and project implementation. Hazal has been working as a Business Support Officer under the Safeguarding and Creating Employment Package of Innovative Entrepreneurship project since January 2022.

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Hasan Tabakcı

Business Support Officer

Business development and marketing professional with more than 10 years of experience with a Master’s Degree in Applied Social Sciences – Digital Marketing in the UK. Hasan has been involved in many projects island-wide as a business development advisor for early-stage startups and SMEs. He’s passionate about innovation and digital strategy and has been an active stakeholder in Cyprus’ entrepreneurship ecosystem. Currently, he is working as a business support officer at the Innovative Entrepreneurship Project on Safeguarding Scheme for SMEs.

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Doğukan Dalgalan

Business Support Officer

Doğukan completed his undergraduate education in Biochemistry and his master’s degree in Molecular Medicine. He has 10 years of experience in the private sector; the last six being in the manufacturing sector. He has experience with business advisory services, quality management systems and project implementation/management. He has been working as a Business Support Officer since January 2022.

Arzu Photo

Arzu Küsbeci

Business Support Officer

After completion of her higher education in Biology/Zoology in Turkey, following a master’s degree in Applied Ecology and Conservation in the UK, Arzu returned to Cyprus. She worked at different educational institutions for 8 years. She has been working with the European Union funded projects in Cyprus for more than four years. She has been working as Business Support Officer under Safeguarding and Creating Employment Package of Innovative Entrepreneurship project since January 2022.


Çağın Pekdoğan

Business Support Officer

Çağın completed his both bachelor’s and Master’s degree in the UK and achieved degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Business Management. He developed his educational background in renewable energy applications and innovative supply chain management strategies and improved his professional career by taking various roles like Data Coordinator, Marketing Specialist and Business Planner both in Cyprus and UK for the past 6 years. He has gained experience in the field of marketing, branding, business management, business planning and data management. Çağın previously continued his career by providing business planning services to visa applicants and new entrepreneurs who want to establish a business in the UK. He is now working as Business Support Officer under the Safeguarding and Creating Employment Package of the Innovative Entrepreneurship project.