The EU 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 European Union funded EU 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 EU Innovative Entrepreneurship project for the Turkish Cypriot community over the period January 2019 to March 2024. 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 22 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 EU 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 EU Innovative Entrepreneurship project and coordinates the “Into Business” programme.


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 EU Innovative Entrepreneurship project.


Övge Hürkal

Project Accountant

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 with the EU Innovative Entrepreneurship project since July 2021.

Tamer Garip

Tamer Garip

Innovation Officer

Tamer was the Head of Innovation Department of a university in Cyprus for over 5 years before founding and running the Filmmaking Department and XR Metaverse Labs. He was also the CEO of a holding company over 6 years. He has over 30 years’ experience working as managing director in media & technology sectors in London. He has founded 2 successful media technology start-ups in Soho London in 1998 and is currently a leading metaverse expert advising companies in US and UK. He was a pioneer of interactive advertising (1990) won the Most Innovative Technology Award & 2 nd Best Web Design Agency Award (1999) in UK. He was selected as one of the 50 Most Influential Businessmen for Internet in UK (2001). In 1996 he was contracted by Barclays Bank UK Ltd to create & produce the “Future Vision Exhibition -How People will be Shopping and Banking in 2020?”in Manchester, UK. He has also written & directed 2 feature films which premiered in Cannes Film Festival. He is currently part time lecturer at a university. He has an MBA in Social Innovation and is a P.Q Chartered Accountant.


Zehra Akıntuğ

Finance Assistant

After completing her bachelor’s degree in Management Engineering and her master’s degree in Engineering Business Management, subsequently she started her PhD study in Tourism Management. After she completed her PhD courses, she started to work as a ‘Commercial Credit Analyst’ in one of the private banks within northern part of Cyprus. After gaining one and half years of experience in banking sector, she decided to continue her career in an academic way. Currently, she is a PhD student and pursuing a career as a researcher by doing scientific researches on sustainability, sustainable tourism development, use of digital technologies in tourism sector and smart tourism.


Margaret Bateson

Business Support Manager

Margaret is the in-country lead on the Safeguarding and Creating Employment Scheme working with a team of local professional Business Support Officers. She has over 20 years of experience in finance and governance, service delivery and leading organisational change including 15 years in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of EU and other aid-funded development programmes across a range of sectors: microfinance, infrastructure, peace and reconciliation, community development, health and social care. She is a passionate advocate of collaborative design and partnership approaches with a focus on impact and outcomes. Margaret has worked in Northern Ireland, Ireland, Europe and the South Pacific. She has a degree in Accounting with French, a Masters in Development Management and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

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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 EU Innovative Entrepreneurship project since January 2022.


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 EU 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 EU Innovative Entrepreneurship Project on Safeguarding Scheme for SMEs.

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Doğukan Dalgalan

Business Support Officer

Doğukan completed his undergraduate education in Biochemistry at Macalester College in the USA and subsequently pursued a Master’s degree in Molecular Medicine at Imperial College London. Boasting a decade of experience in the private sector, Doğukan has particularly focused on the development of SMEs in the manufacturing sector. Serving in various capacities at the TC Chamber of Industry, including roles such as Calibration Laboratory Manager, Industry Development Expert, and Assistant Secretary-General, Doğukan has acquired extensive knowledge in both micro and macroeconomic levels on the development of industrialists specifically, and the private sector in general. His areas of expertise encompass business advisory services, quality management systems, project management and data management. Since January 2022, Doğukan has been utilizing his comprehensive skill set as a Business Support Officer in the IE project

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 EU 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 EU Innovative Entrepreneurship project.


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 EU Innovative Entrepreneurship project.


Deha Gürsel

Administrative Officer

After graduating from Business Management and Marketing, Deha Gürsel has worked as a copywriter, digital marketing specialist and marketing adviser in private sector for 5 years. He has contributed many business projects including corporate image building, corporate social responsibility and integrated marketing strategies. Deha has been working as administrative officer under Safeguarding and Creating Employment Package of EU Innovative Entrepreneurship project since February 2023.

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Hüseyin Çelebi

Project Accountant

Hüseyin is an experienced public accountant with a proven track record in managing diverse client portfolios, analyzing financial data, and preparing accurate financial statements. With expertise in auditing, project accounting, and team management, Hüseyin has successfully contributed to the growth and success of various organizations. He possesses excellent communication skills and a strong ability to adapt to new systems and technologies.

AB İnovatif Girişimcilik projesi başarıyla tamamlanmıştır.

Girişimcilik, işletme  ve inovasyon alanlarında yeni açılacak destek programları ile ilgili bilgi için  [email protected] adresine ulaşabilirsiniz. 

EU Innovative Entrepreneurship has concluded successfully.
Please contact  [email protected] for further information on the continuation of support within the areas of entrepreneurship, business development and innovation.