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Interview

TÜBİTAK - An Important Player in Turkey’s Technology Management Eco-System

In an exclusive interview, Prof. A. Arif Ergin, President of TÜBİTAK discusses their critical role in adding strategic and economic value to Turkey, entering regional markets through industry integration and the wealth of opportunity that abounds through generous financial support programs

Defence Turkey: How do you assess the efficiency and added value of your institutes such as TÜBİTAK MAM, TÜBİTAK BİLGEM, TÜBİTAK SPACE, TÜBİTAK SAGE, institutes that technologically contribute to the defense industry?

TÜBİTAK is an institution which has adopted a mission to conduct R&D studies in order to fulfil the existing and near future security and defense related requirements of the Defense Industry. 

The projects executed within this framework are of a pioneering nature and confidential projects on a national level that are not accomplished by the private sector because many of these projects may not be commercially preferred by the private sector or they are projects of such content that the private sector lacks the capability or the capacity required to accomplish them.

While conducting such studies, TÜBİTAK adopted the principle of supporting the development of our industry through involvement in activities that are within the scope of the business packages where it is feasible to require the support of the industry. At the same time, introducing technologies and innovative products to stakeholder defense institutions, developed by TÜBİTAK with its new vision, TÜBİTAK conducts integrated activities with our industry through the utilization of technology transfer methods which enable the long-term sustainability of solutions introduced in the market and creates added value in the economy.

Within this scope, in addition to fulfilling Turkey’s urgent requirements, it is regarded that our institution plays a critical role in adding strategic and economic value to our country by entering regional markets through industry integration.

As mentioned in your question, the TÜBİTAK central organization and its institutes provide significant added value to the defense industry as they conduct studies based on R&D.  Of great importance are the areas in the defense industry in which we have a high rate of foreign dependency.  In the upcoming period TÜBİTAK UME will begin conducting our country’s scientific metrology studies, specializing in the production of prototypes of navigation based strategic products.  In addition, you will see TÜBİTAK’s participation in the measurement and quality assessment activities of domestically produced materials for high-power laser resistant optics.

Amongst the primary objectives of the TÜBİTAK MAM Chemical Technology Institute is the development of the chemicals and equipment required by our defense industry.  The institute carries out studies for particular products such as explosives, gas holding systems, advanced polymeric materials for defensive purposes and energetic materials.

TÜBİTAK MAM GE was established with the support of our Ministry of Development.  At our “Center for the

Development of Food Analysis Kits’’, the objective is the production of the materials that could be utilized at MoD Food Laboratories.  These materials consist of the following:

Rapid and field-usable unique device and kit systems

Biological agents (pathogens)

Chemical toxic substances (toxins, pesticide, etc.)

Heavy metals

Genetically Modified Organisms

Attempts at food terrorism, especially targeted toward executives and decision makers globally, constantly remains at the forefront of the world. The most important motive for food contamination attacks are that they often do not have an immediate effect and is not time dependent.  The Food Institute has the knowledge and experience to develop a diagnostic system in our country that can provide fast, precise and reliable routine detection of food containing chemical agents before consumption. 

Studies are being conducted toward the development of a local small, portable sensor system through the utilization of the national infrastructure and intellectual power. The indigenous production of this system will also enable the fulfilment of an essential component of national security.

TÜBİTAK’s research and development institute, that specializes in the defense industry, TÜBİTAK SAGE, has experience that surpasses 45 years in the development of both system level and sub system level products/projects in line with the vision to reduce foreign dependency within the defense industry. The main goal of this institute is to conduct applied research and technological development, thus contributing to the establishment and development of a national defense industry based on scientific and technological principles at home.

TÜBİTAK SAGE has been a pioneering institution in Turkey that develops successful systems and sub systems that turn into products, due to its R&D capability in the fields of missiles, rocket and ammunition in the defense industry. The variants of the Precise Guidance Kit (HGK), Penetrator Bomb (NEB) and Stand-off-Missile (SOM) developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE in 2015 and 2016 have been serially produced by our defense industry and they are in the inventory of the Turkish Air Forces Command and have been effectively utilized for internal security and the operations of Euphrates Shield. The mass production of five unique products designed by TÜBİTAK SAGE are scheduled for launch in 2017 and are to be delivered to the Turkish Air Forces Command.

These developed indigenous products with high added value (i.e. 2500 – 7000 USD/kg) will facilitate our country’s accomplishment of its Defense Industry export goal.  With brimming overseas market opportunities, it empowers our manufacturing companies while reducing Turkey’s foreign dependency. 

With the activities it conducts, particularly by enhancing its human resources competency through R&D, TÜBİTAK SAGE triggers new developments and enables the growth of our Defense Industry companies with unique products while also enabling the development of subcontractor companies that will manufacture the numerous nationalized critical sub components. 

The RASAT and Göktürk-2 satellites developed by TÜBİTAK SPACE and their various communication components, electronic warfare and encryption systems developed by TÜBİTAK BİLGEM are of particular importance to mention here. I believe that the high technology content and development level of the products are of significance, a value-add contribution to our defense industry. Moreover, considering the fact that most of these systems are currently being exported and nearly all of them have high export potential, this level of added value increases further. Besides, these systems that are developed through very humble budgets and by a limited number of researchers constitute another important indicator of the efficiency of the TÜBİTAK Institutes and Centers.

Defence Turkey: It seems that despite the annual increase in the share allocated by the government to R&D, with the equity capital resources in the defense industry in Turkey the resources allocated are currently below the desired level.  Could you please evaluate the current status regarding the promotions, incentives and investments transferred to the universities, institutes, Main Contractors, SMEs and Sub-Contractors, as well as your strategies for the upcoming period? 

The TÜBİTAK Research Support Programs Directorate (ARDEB) conducts activities to promote, direct, support and monitor the R&D activities containing scientific, technological and innovative approaches in the academic arena within the scope of Turkey’s overall science and technology policies. Project proposals in all scientific areas are accepted including social sciences.  ARDEB provides non-repayable support to the projects of academicians, researchers working in the private sector as well as the public sector through 7 different research programs.

The objectives and contents of these support programs:

-1001 - Scientific and Technologic Research Projects Funding Program: The objective of this program are to support projects in compliance with the scientific principles to generate new information, to make scientific analysis or toward solving technological problems. The funding cap per project is 360 thousand TL (est. $ 100K). The duration of the project is a maximum of 36 months.

-1002 - Short Term R&D Funding Program: This program’s objective is to provide support to the urgent, short term, low budget research and development projects to be conducted in the universities, research hospitals and research institutes/stations. The cap per project is 30 thousand TL (est. $ 8K). The duration of the project is a maximum of 12 months.

-1003 - Priority Subjects R&D Funding Program: The objective of this program is to support and coordinate the R&D projects related to the priority areas which will be identified within the National Science Technology and Innovation Strategy, which are result-oriented, having traceable targets, and to supervise the dynamics of the related science/technology areas and that are conducted in the country. The funding cap per project is 2.5 million TL. (est. $ 700K). The duration of the project is a maximum of 36 months.

-1007 - Public Institutions Research Funding Program: This program aims to fulfil the requirements of the public institutions or to resolve the problems that may be covered through R&D. There is no funding cap per project as the special limits are identified with the proposals. The duration of the project is a maximum of 48 months.

-3001 – Start up R&D Projects Funding Program: The objective of this program is to expand the R&D project preparation and execution culture, to fund R&D projects that will be presented by university researchers, public institutions/associations or private associations who have not been assigned as executives in other projects funded by ARDEB. The funding cap per project is 60 thousand TL. (est. $ 16K). The duration of the project is a maximum of 24 months. 

-3501 - Career Advancement Program: This program aims to encourage scientists with doctorate degrees who have just started their careers by granting them project funds. It is a program with the purpose of promoting the academic careers of young researchers who will assume academic leadership in the 21st century by funding their studies. The program also intends to both boost our country’s scientific proficiency but to also increase the role of science in our development. The funding cap per project is 225 thousand TL (est. $ 62K). The duration of the project is a maximum of 36 months. 

As a result, the new funding programs, promotion activities and improved processes, a significant increase was observed in the number of project applications. The applications received, from all around Turkey, and the number of projects proposed to ARDEB increased significantly in the last two years. This year the number of project applications has reached 7,813. 

We encourage our country to become more competitive and we encourage the researchers in our country to prepare R&D proposals with our newly developed programs, creating domestic and novel products. Moreover, with the Project Performance Award result-oriented projects are eligible for up to 100,000 (est. $ 27 K) TL in proportion with performance.  

Within the scope of the funding programs, the aim has been to achieve improvements in the quality and quantity of the projects. One of these improvements is the increase of the institutional share granted to the universities, up to 50% according to the performance of the universities. This has already started a competition between universities as they will place more importance on scientific research. 

The Request for Proposals are being actively called for in Turkey’s priority areas within the framework of the “1003 - Priority Subjects R&D Funding Program”. Since its entry into force in 2012, requests for proposals have been issued in Boron Technologies, Energy, Information Technologies, Food/ Field Crops, Automotive, Medical Devices, Hydrogen and Fuel Battery Technologies, Solar Power, Food/Food Reliability, Membrane Technologies, Energy Efficiency, Biomaterials, Mobile Communication Technologies, Vaccine, Medical Diagnosis Kits, Medicine, Biomedical Equipment, Graphene, Human Brain, Health and Water Saving Technologies. 

The project fund targeted to develop R&D and Technology has been increasing significantly in the last fifteen years in Turkey. This is a recognized and an affirmed fact at home and abroad. In this respect, significant  achievement was obtained in the number of projects, the number of researchers and the development of research infrastructure. 

TUBITAK’s technology and product development projects for the defense industry intensified and gained importance since 2006. To this end, the Göktürk-2 project was funded, enabling our country to gain capabilities in space and defense. Regarding information technology, the Real-Time Operating System project was funded and finalized successfully. With this product, an important and critical technology for the nationalization of numerous systems or platforms required by real time operating systems was acquired.

Then again, the development of technologies with high added value as an outcome of R&D funds, the increase in the number of projects and their promotion to local and overseas markets is a crucial point as it becomes difficult to maintain the sustainability of research and development activities if there is no assurance of financial contribution. 

It is a well-known fact that the development activities, in developed countries, concerning technology and products that add value in the defense & space industry, are a result of governmental grants. In this way, countries gain important achievements in political, strategic and social areas as much as in technological and economic areas. In order to take a pioneering role on a regional and global scale, developing an indigenous defense industry and unique technology has to be our indispensable goal. 

In order to reach this goal, successful navigation through political and administrative regulations, the R&D and technology and industry development eco-system has to operate in harmony.  Scientific and technological attainment developed with TÜBİTAK’s incentives are intended to cultivate original products and processes through innovation.

TÜBİTAK performs an important function in the technology management eco-system of Turkey. We are a critical and essential piece of the mechanism and we are aware of the importance and impact of our task within this context. Therefore, our objective is to contribute to Turkey’s development, to increase our country’s social progress, to contribute to its economic growth and the manufacturing of products with a high value add benefit.  We accomplish through our activities that generate advancements in scientific and technological knowledge and in cooperation with universities, institutes, private companies and major industry associations. It is known that developed countries maintain their superiority and their ability due to their fundamental dominance in R&D and technology.

In the current situation, we see that the SMEs, universities and institutes are mostly under the main contractor in defense industry projects. Main contractors, in some cases look after one’s own benefit such as financial profits rather than the R&D or quality aspects. Therefore, the most important component in enhancing the contributions of SMEs, universities and institutes is to efficiently contract these institutions in defense projects, first hand from the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM). 

The critical and primary issues should be conducted within a concrete program by the SSM. Secondary topics should be designed under the programs involving all stakeholders (Main Contractors, Sub-Contractors, institutes, SMEs and universities) who are able to make applications for these projects. Thus, paving the way for all actors to be involved in defense projects. The subjects or products requiring critical and intensive R&D should be assigned at least to 2 or 3 sub-contractors simultaneously. The product of the best sub-contractor should be utilized. The fact that competition could create essential synergy should not be ignored and successful results should be awarded with notable amounts. The main contractors must take system-level work and be responsible for system integration, installation, integration of subcomponents, production and testing. The main contractor may also be able to take on R&D if desired, but work that requires R&D should not be a burden left on the main contractor.  Another unique and effective activity of the SSM is that it prefers technology transfer instead of procuring systems regarding critical technologies that need to be acquired (i.e. Air Defense System, TX, TF-X and GEO satellite communication programs). Especially in this critical period that our country is going through, the technology transfer should be extremely prioritized and conducted in a planned manner. Technology transfer should be completed under the coordination of the SSM, then again it may be a rigorous task for the SSM to execute such responsibility in an efficient manner single-handed. Diversified technical teams may be organized to conduct R&D activities and to identify the main contractors for the production phase, determining who the main sub-contractors are, that those that are in charge of the main systems. TÜBİTAK and its institutes can oversee the organization and coordination of the team that is to conduct R&D activities. All of these activities have to be completed in a time sensitive manner; also of consideration is the availability of a broad data repository of researchers and sub-contractors, and in this sense TÜBİTAK can assume critical tasks.

It is splendid that we have incentives but their failure to provide the desired level of momentum is an issue that requires further discussion. The attractiveness of the incentive figures, the subjects to be funded and assessment criteria should be revised. Is the project or the product of the company receiving the stimulus package and completing the project being used in the field, what should be done for it to be utilized, these points must be carefully scrutinized. Moreover, how does an SME receiving the incentive preserve sustainability after the accomplishment of the programs? could it endure in the business world? Or, does it have to alter its business strategy? I would like to underline that these issues should be pursued with great sensitivity.

The granting programs TÜBİTAK (Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) TEYDEB (Technology and Innovation Support Programs)  include the allocation of resources to private sector R&D, the development of cooperation between firms themselves or with universities and research institutions, the transformation of scientific and technological know-how, which is considered to be the most important sources of transforming economic development into social benefits. Increasing resources assigned to innovation based on R&D is promoted through incentives. 

The R&D activities and grants compatible with the EU’s strategic objectives have set a policy focused on increasing the welfare of Turkey. In line with such a policy, the objective is to raise the share of R&D expenses within the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 3% and the share of the private sector’s R&D expenses to 70% by 2023. Developing industrial research and technologies, supporting, encouraging and monitoring innovation and developing university - industry relations, focused on increasing our country’s economic and social welfare are amongst TÜBİTAK’s main functions. 

Conducting the management of a total of 13 support programs, TEYDEB maintains its position as the center of R&D, innovation and entrepreneurship funding requirements of the private sector, from the individual entrepreneurs to SMEs and to our major companies.

Regarding the funds granted and support programs designated for the defense industry:

1501 - Industrial R&D Projects Granting Program: This is TEYDEB’s main support program. The Program enables application throughout the year to all sector companies with projects in all subjects and provides a 60% grant for 36 months to approved projects. There are no budgetary limits. 

1507 is a similar program, with more defined limits, is a program developed for the requirements of the SMEs. The SME R&D Startup Support Program; SMEs from all sectors are funded up to 50 thousand TL (est. $ 14K)  for the first five projects (2 of them with the condition of establishing partnerships) with the grant rate of 75%, funded for 18 months.

Through the 1511 program, The Primary Subjects Research Technologies Development and Innovation Programs Funding Program, funds of 75% are granted to SMEs and 60% to major companies are provided to projects aligning with the request for proposals in determined thematic areas required in our country. Projects in line with the request for proposals issued within the scope of the program can be submitted. 

With the aim of our industry’s participation in projects with international partners such as EUREKA, EUROSTARS and ERA-NET, the 1509 - International Industry R&D Projects Funding Program provides funds to major companies located in our country. The rate of support in this program are within the following ranges: 75% to SMEs, 60% to major companies.

Within the scope of the aforementioned programs, between 2008 and 2017, a total of 846 project applications regarding the defense industry were submitted. 509 of them resulted in funding approval and a total of approximately 25 Million TL (est. $ 6.94 Million) (in fixed prices of 2017) were allocated to these projects. 

Defence Turkey: We know that reverse brain drain has a considerable place on your agenda. Our companies have made individual attempts to obtain qualified leader staff, composed of individuals who are experts in their fields and to assign them to significant projects, yet the desired level of efficiency could not yet be achieved. What kind of strategy do you have for the more effective and efficient management of these initiatives under the leadership of TÜBİTAK, in a centralized structure? 

We have been designing innovative mechanisms to seize the internationalization processes experienced in research and innovation, facilitating the access of the Turkish research and innovation actors to the know-how accumulated in abroad. In this sense, we aim to use critical competencies gained abroad, especially that of the Turkish diaspora, leveraging the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired. Local cooperation on research and innovation through the diaspora is as important as the reverse brain drain and it is becoming more visible on the agendas of leading economies as well as the economies of developing countries. 

Through the new mechanism it created, TÜBİTAK provides cooperation opportunities in subjects required by the competent Turkish and foreign researchers and professionals abroad and the public and private sector research institutions operating in our country. Without any limits on subjects, the Turkish associations can apply to TÜBİTAK and receive funds for local cooperation projects to be conducted with the researchers abroad with whom they wish to realize joint activities, generating joint solutions for the identified research problems, accessing critical data, know-how and competencies and executing research activities on strategic issues. Within the scope of the projects, the Turkish or foreign researchers living abroad can pay short term visits to the applicant association in Turkey and conduct their studies there without the requirement of fully returning to Turkey, and at the same time, short term study visits can be conducted at the target association abroad from Turkey. 

The Turkish scientists in foreign countries are becoming more involved in TÜBİTAK’s evaluation processes and we enable their sharing of the most updated technological information in their research areas by inviting them to the panels in Turkey. Through such cooperation, the Turkish scientists abroad seize the opportunity to follow the most contemporary developments occurring in Turkey in respect to the Turkish Research field and a landscape is being established for them to keep their relations with their Turkish colleagues fresh and for their return to Turkey. 

TÜBİTAK approaches this issue with precision, as great importance is attached to it within the National Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for the years 2011- 2016.  To this end, with the aim of introducing the European and Nationally Supported Fund Opportunities offered to the researchers who will be returning to Turkey from abroad, with United States being in the first place and thus increasing the reverse brain drain, the Destination Turkey Workshops have been conducted since 2010. 25 different events in 12 different cities in the United States, Canada and Europe have been held up to this point. The Turkish and foreign researchers executing their research in the identified regions and wishing to conduct research in Turkey attended the workshops. Within this scope, 2,855 scientists have been informed one-on-one and it is believed that many scientists, far beyond this figure, have been reached through the awareness created. As part of the Destination Turkey Workshops, the gathering and negotiation of the scientists with the executives of the hosting universities and industrial associations in Turkey and information exchange has been enabled. Detailed information has been presented on the latest developments in Turkey’s Research field and on the many grants that are available for our researchers while and after returning to Turkey throughout the workshops. After sharing the success stories of the researchers who have returned Turkey, by benefiting from these programs, the researchers conducting research activities in the United States have taken the opportunity to negotiate with the representatives of the universities and industrial associations overall Turkey. 

The cities in which we organized the events are as follows: In United States: Boston, Ann Arbor, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Houston, Raleigh, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco. In Canada: Waterloo. In Europe: Berlin 

Defence Turkey: Within the scope of the establishment of a technology bank for the least developed countries, as a result of the understanding reached with the United Nations, the decision was made to establish the technology bank in Gebze in 2017. When do you expect the host country agreement to be signed with the UN? Could you also elaborate on the acquisitions this technology bank would bring to the least developed countries? 

Technology Bank program will play an important role primarily in the sharing of the technologies produced by developed countries with the least developed countries and the establishment of cooperation that would benefit both parties.  

When the program is launched, a ‘requirement analysis’ is planned to be conducted regarding the least developed countries and activities will be identified in line with these requirements during the first stage. In this way, the Least Developed Countries will be informed on their technical and capacity requirements with the inclusion of Science, Technology and Innovation issues.  At the same time, this will create a system that provides more structure and access to information, which is of great importance. 

In this direction, providing consultancy and training in the development and implementation of the science and technology policies in the least developed countries, and establishment of the required management system and structures are amongst the activities of the Technology Bank. 

Another task of this bank is enabling the access of the scientists in the least developed countries to scientific articles and research published in the world and execution of joint (academic) research with the developed countries on subjects required by the Least Developed Countries.

One of the greatest obstacles facing the development of the technology and innovation in the Least Developed Countries are the high intellectual property rights and patent costs. One of Technology Bank’s main priorities is mediating for the introduction of the patent and intellectual property rights owned by the developed countries to the least developed countries in more affordable conditions. Ultimately, the most important advantage of the Technology Bank for the least developed countries will be in the direction of diminishing the major differences in the development levels between two parties.

Within the framework of the Technology Bank program, the negotiations for the host country agreement are planned to be launched in May during a visit to be paid by the United Nations (UN) to our country and the completion of the negotiations and signing of the agreement are aimed to take place within 2017.

One of the main objectives to be reached through the Technology Bank is enabling the follow up of related literature in order to facilitate the academic studies of the researchers of the Least Developed Countries (LDC). To this end, making the online academic resources to LDCs free of charges is planned. In addition, another undertaking will be the facilitation of the communication and cooperation opportunities of the researchers of the LDCs both among themselves and between the other researchers in the world through the academic networks.  To pursue these goals, the bank aims to cooperate with various national and international science academies so that the LDC researchers can benefit from the existing scholarships and funding programs. 

In addition to increasing the research quality in the LDCs, another important objective of the Technology Bank is strengthening the national intellectual property capacity of the LDCs and therefore enabling the execution of the technology transfer fully based on voluntary and mutual understanding principles. Then again, the importance of informing the LDCs on their technical and capacity requirements and their inclusion to the international system in a more structural manner is monitored by the Technology Bank and activities concerning this point will be prioritized. 

Defence Turkey: A Science and Technology Cooperation Protocol was signed between King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) in Saudi Arabia and TÜBİTAK in the recent period.  What are your remarks on the latest status of this cooperation protocol signed with KACST directing Saudi Arabia’s science and the advantages expected from this cooperation? 

Currently we are successfully conducting joint projects with Saudi Arabia that we initiated as TÜBİTAK and these projects are extremely advantageous for both countries. We regard especially our installation of the scientific metrology institute in Saudi Arabia and its successful integration to the international metrology system will be contributing more to the development of both military and commercial and cooperation with both Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Countries. 

Similarly, concerning the cooperation protocol, we will be holding a workshop with the representatives of KACST as soon as possible to clarify the activities that we will be conducting between our institutions. Initially we plan to launch joint projects between our institutions.  Workshops will be held, with our experts on thematic areas such as defense and space being in the first place, energy, industry, communication, life quality.

The cooperation agreements signed and projects executed by our Institutes and KACST are as follows: 

Cooperation between TÜBİTAK MAM EE and KACST initiated with the “Collaboration and Technology Transfer Project for Static Var Compensation (SVC) Systems” project signed on 01 June 2011 and 4 projects on energy have been successfully accomplished with KACST so far. As a result of these projects, an inflow of 8,129,400 $ to our economy was achieved. Besides, with the help of these projects and cooperation, Turkey reached the position of a technology exporting country. Negotiations on the development of Central Solar Inverters for Solar Stations are being held with TÜBİTAK MAM Energy Institute and KACST National Center for Solar Energy Technology. Launching activities such as monitoring the coastal waters and off-shore jointly through scientific methods and an ecosystem understanding approach, detection and management of the current status of the offshore and seacoasts are planned by TÜBİTAK MAM Environment and Cleaner Production Institute and Saudi Arabia’s institution related to marine research. As marine research is quite challenging, compelling and costly, the joint utilization of the existing devices, equipment and vessel infrastructure is quite essential. 

Moreover, a Cooperation Protocol on Science and Technology was signed with Saudi Arabia on 30 September 2016. With the signing of the protocol, the first solid step towards the joint request for proposal considering the joint projects between TÜBİTAK and KACST was taken. In this respect, during the visits paid by our Institution to various cities of Saudi Arabia in February 2017, both parties agreed to identify primary subjects and prepare a joint request for proposal. Within this scope, technical visits for the cooperation of the institute and institutions will be organized shortly and then the primary subjects will be identified and a request for proposal is planned in order to support the major projects with high budgets to which the actors of industry and academy could apply jointly.

As is known, there are Research Institutes related with various areas of competency under the auspices of the KACST and Institutes of TÜBİTAK cooperate with them. For instance, within the scope of the ‘Time and Frequency Measurement and Calibration Laboratory System Installation Project’, the laboratory installation of the Mecca Clock Tower was accomplished by TÜBİTAK National Metrology Institute (UME) and the continuation of the consultancy and training services as part of the project for 2 years is planned. Moreover, TÜBİTAK MAM intends to conduct geologic hazard (seismic, landslide) analysis in Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, a request related with the installation of e-identity infrastructure developed by TÜBİTAK BİLGEM was received from Saudi Arabia. Activities concerning the joint surveillance of the seacoast and offshore through scientific methods and with the approach of ecosystem understanding, detection of the existing status of the sea and coast waters and its management are planned to be launched by our Environment and Cleaner Production Institute and Saudi Arabia’s institution related to marine research.

Defence Turkey: The “Turkish Trade Center” which is the first Organized Industrial Zone and Business Incubator investment in a foreign country was inaugurated in Chicago, United States. Which advantages will this center bring to the investors wishing to penetrate the American market and companies working with the growth strategy based on innovation? Could you please elaborate on the existing structure and the activities planned to be conducted in the upcoming period? 

TÜBİTAK Marmara Teknokent established a consortium in 2016 with the partnership of 18 technoparks in order to build an international business incubation center and an application was made benefiting from the KOSGEB (Small and Medium Industry Development Organization) funds. This application for the funds was not approved, so we persevered in our efforts with different partnerships and facilities. We made a cooperation with the Kocaeli Güzeller Organized Industrial Zone within the scope of the Turkish Trade Center (TTC) opened in Chicago and signed a protocol to occupy a 1000 m2 area within a space of 16,000 m2 as a business incubator center. In order to conduct the Business Incubator Center, a partnership agreement was made with Gebze Organized Industry Teknopark, İstanbul University Teknopark and Namık Kemal University Teknopark. In January 2017, we organized a visit to the United States with the participation of 15 companies and 17 company representatives. We visited Chicago, Las Vegas and San Francisco. In addition to the Business Incubator Center, we met numerous businessmen and investors and visited one of the world’s most well-known fairs the CES 2017. Moreover, we visited leading institutions and associations such as the Illinois Science and Technology Park, Argonne National Laboratory, Mhub, Plug&Play Technology Center, Google and Jabil. 

During our official visit, we developed cooperation with the MHUB which used to be the additional manufacturing facility of Motorola and currently active as Fablab and enabled the utilization of the MHUB infrastructure by our incubator companies throughout the test, analysis and/or prototype building phases. 

We drew up an acceleration program for the business incubators with the TTC experts. Once again, we drafted cultural and scientific activities under the roof of the business incubator center.  We launched a joint activity again with the TTC experts in order to hold ‘Business Day’ organizations in which the entrepreneurs would be able to seize the opportunity to gather with businessmen. 

In the future, we envisage the opening of business incubators within the TTCs which will launch their operations in America as part of their collaboration. In addition to United States, we are striving to open Business Incubator Centers at certain locations in Europe in the upcoming period.

Defence Turkey: TÜRKSAT 6A Indigenous Communication Satellite activities are being executed under your leadership. Could you please inform us on the R&D studies conducted for particularly gaining critical technologies within this program as well as on the latest status of the program? 

TÜRKSAT 6A Indigenous Communication Satellite is being supported within the scope of the legislation of 1007 Program by TÜBİTAK KAMAG and the budget of the project is being co-funded by TÜBİTAK, Ministry of Transportation, Maritime and Communication and TÜRKSAT A.Ş. The management of the project is assumed by TÜBİTAK Space Institute while Aselsan, TAI and CTech bear the responsibility of the sub work package. Numerous equipment and systems to be developed domestically for the first time exist in the project. The satellite management unit, power conditioning units, attitude and orbit control systems, electrical propulsion system, platform and cabling design, telemetry and tele-command systems and Ku-Band systems are some of the satellite components to be developed domestically. In this project, which is the most comprehensive R&D project with the highest budget in our country, we are conducting our activities despite the difficulties that our country endured recently. In light of this information, the activities regarding TÜRKSAT 6A satellite are planned to be completed by the end of 2020. 

TÜRKSAT 6A Communication Satellite project is the greatest project conducted in field of Space in Turkey up until today. The developed satellite platform is planned to provide services for the future satellite communication requirements of Turkey. Within the scope of the critical technologies developed by TÜBİTAK Space, the following equipment and sub-systems are being developed: As part of the ground stationary orbit satellite requirements “Task Computer”, “Power Distribution and Organization Units”, “Reaction Wheels” and “Sun and Star Sensors” for maintaining the attitude control of the satellite, “Electric Propulsion Sub System” enabling the satellite maneuvers. Moreover, TAI conducts the structural, thermal and cabling sub systems, Aselsan executes the communication payloads and CTech accomplishes the sub systems required for tele-command / telemetry communication. Within the scope of these sub systems, equipment such as receptors, signal flashers, switching blocks and antennas are being designed in a way that holds critical technologies. 

Four separate models in system level are being developed as part of the Project. Intensive activities are being carried out as part of the initially developed models; the electrical electronic satellite model and thermal structural model. Integration of the electrical electronic satellite model will be starting on 15 April 2017 and the production activities regarding the thermal structural model are going-on. The engineering model integration, which will be very similar to the flight model, will be launched thereafter. The launch of the flight model, which is considered to be the end-product, is planned to go into orbit in 2020. 

Defence Turkey: TÜBİTAK BİLGEM assumed a critical role in the development of the mission computer of the aircraft as part of the T-FX program. What are your comments on the project team established to this end and on the latest status of the activities conducted? 

Avionic systems based on advanced level integrated modular avionic architecture started to be used in modern air platform systems as they are scalable, and as they enable technology retrofit and diminish the life cycle costs. The advanced avionic architecture in the 5th Generation Modern Fighter Jets such as F-35/JSF enables the effective utilization of decision support and mission systems through the real time central sensor and data fusion used for increasing the operation and mission performance. 

Within the scope of the Indigenous Fighter Jet (TF-X) development program, since 2015, TÜBİTAK BİLGEM has been contributing to the design activities executed for the avionic architecture and systems with its team that has expertise in avionic software and hardware, radar, electro-optical systems and electronic warfare.  

TÜBİTAK BİLGEM will be assuming the main responsibility in the Integrated Processing Unit (IPU) technology development project providing advanced modular avionic technologies to the Indigenous Fighter Jet. The IPU unique mission computer to be developed by TÜBİTAK BİLGEM is in a sense a super computer which will be the brain of the Indigenous Fighter Jet.

The IPU mission computer containing multi-core processors, high performance graphic processors and digital signal processors will be designed and developed through indigenous and local resources as part of this program. The interchangeable cards are placed within a rack mechanic structure as modules. GZiS, our avionic operating system developed by TÜBİTAK BİLGEM will be integrated with the IPU by adding new features.

Since the IPU unique mission computer will be running the process of the data received from sensors such as the radar and electro-optics of the aircraft through its data processing capability, it will be beyond a standard mission computer. All avionic functions, signal and data processing functions related with the communication, electronic warfare, radar and mission management will be capable of functioning over the hardware modules integrated with each other as software. 

Another novelty in the critical technology is the re-configurability of the IPU mission computer in-flight. This feature will enable more allocation of the IPU hardware modules to the avionic software specific to the task during the execution of various missions such as surveillance and electronic warfare.

The functional integration of the Indigenous Fighter Jet’s mission systems increases efficiency and effectiveness, yet high speed and reliable network infrastructure is required. Within the context of the IPU project, the high speed deterministic avionic network technology will be domestically designed and developed.

Our expert avionics team from TÜBİTAK BİLGEM has been working on the identification of the fifth-generation fighter jet avionic architecture and IPU mission computer, coalescing with TAI’s Project Team for almost two years. The contract negotiations for the development of the IPU mission computer are being conducted with TAI. Within this period, until the signing of the contract, TÜBİTAK BİLGEM has built a project team through its own resources composed of 20 engineers and has launched the activities for the development of certain critical technologies of the program.  23 teammates currently are charged with on the Real Time Operating System (RTOS) which will establish the software infrastructure of the Mission Computer.  Soon this number will reach 28 staff and it will increase further in time.  The fruit of our team’s efforts of over ten years - the RTOS was integrated to the Digital Flight Control Computer (DFCC) of the Hürkuş Aircraft at the Demirkuş Testing Environment. The following phase of this project is its certification of airworthiness over Hürkuş-B and outfitting with mass production of Hürkuş Aircrafts. This will be an important step on our way to TF-X program. Our other integration activity, similar to DFCC, is being executed over the SARP Stabilized Advanced Remote Weapon Platform and I would like to underline that this study is about to be completed as well.

Defence Turkey: What kind of technological advantages will this Indigenous Mission Computer bring to the end-user? It is one of the critical technologies of the T-FX program, please share some details.

With its high technology, this IPU indigenous mission computer will play crucial roles in fulfilling the future operation and mission requirements of the Indigenous Fighter Jet. The sensor data coming through the high speed avionic network of the mission systems such as radar, electronic warfare, communication, electro-optical monitoring, targeting and weapon systems of the Indigenous Fighter Jet will be centrally processed and integrated at the IPU computer. Then this integrated data formed will be conveyed into reliable and accurate information and transmitted to the pilot. Thus, the lighten pilot’s work-load consist of controlling the aircraft and examining the data arriving separately will be reduced, thus this process will assistance the pilot to focus his main battle missions. Due to the high speed, reliable, high capacity and integrated modular avionic based IPU indigenous mission computer, detecting the hazard and responding period will be minimized and thus the superiority will be achieved against hostile units.

The Mission Computer will fuse the data obtained from non-aircraft sources through wireless data links and its high performance data processing capability, providing pilots a high level of situational awareness as the aircraft is able to see threats before they are visibly seen. The architecture of the Mission Computer will be configured in accordance with the flight phases and enable the utilization of the computer sources at an optimum level and also enable system recovery in cases of breakdown. The software architecture of the Mission Computer will enable the retrofit of ageing hardware components without being changed or with minimum change.

Defence Turkey: Could you please inform us on the latest status of the Electro Magnetic Weapon “Sapan” which was developed by TÜBİTAK Institutes and demonstrated recently, the 35 mm Airburst Ammunition developed with the cooperation between Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation and Aselsan, 122 mm ROKEM to be utilized against the Missile and Mortar Projectile, Precision Guidance Kits, Wing Assisted Guidance Kits (KGK), Stand-off-Missile (SOM), SOM-J, Penetrator Bomb (NEB) programs and the projects for the development of the new versions of KGK and NEB?

Within the scope of the numerous projects it conducts, especially with an accumulation of knowledge and qualified personnel in developing smart munitions for the air platforms, TÜBİTAK SAGE has developed unique munitions in various classes and delivered it to the service of Turkish Armed Forces (TAF). 

From the Guidance Kits family, Precision Guidance Kit-1 (HGK-1) ammunition was developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE and the serial production of this kit was completed by Aselsan. The HGK-1s entered into the inventory are being utilized effectively by the TAF in intrastate and cross-border operations. At this point, the activities considering the integration of the laser seeker also designed by TÜBİTAK SAGE which will gain Precision Guidance Kits the attack capability against the mobile targets continue simultaneously. Moreover, the development and firing test activities of the Precision Guidance Kit-3 (HGK-3) and Precision Guidance Kit-4 (HGK-4) with smaller warheads and which enable single and multiple firing from F-16 fighter jets are being conducted by TÜBİTAK SAGE.

The ground and flight tests of the Wing-Assisted Guidance Kit (KGK-1) developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE have been accomplished and the ammunition has been certified for the F-4 and F-16 Fighter Jets.  The launched production activities of the ammunition developed through the KGK Low Scale Initial Production Project are proceeding. KGK-1s are expected to be delivered to the Turkish Air Forces in the short term. With the completion of these R&D studies regarding such ammunition, each of which will be acquired in Turkey, the outpour of crucial amounts of resources abroad will be cut off and more importantly with these weapon systems that are backbreaking to procure, the ammunition requirements of the Turkish Armed Forces will be ensured. The guidance capability will be a part of the conventional ammunition of the Turkish Armed Forces and our country will be relieved from the limitations in this field thanks to unique systems.

Through the Penetrator Bomb (NEB) Development Project, attack capacity against overprotected targets has been gained and a major part of the serial production of NEB has been completed. With the sequential penetrating warhead technology, NEB is a notable bunker penetrator ammunition in the world also with great export potential. Additionally, TÜBİTAK SAGE is incorporating its bunker penetrator bombs family with a novel product and will own the intellectual property rights. With the SARB-83 ammunition developed over the hull of the MK-83, the Fighters will be able to carry multiple small penetrator ammunition and this will reinforce the striking power of the Turkish Air Forces.

One of the most important ammunition recently developed by TÜBİTAK SAGE is the Stand-Off-Missile (SOM). One of the best in the world in its class, SOM provides the Turkish Air Forces with the capacity to destroy targets with high precision from a distance of 250 km. The serial production activities continue for this ammunition produced by Roketsan, and it has entered the TAF inventory. The Integration modification phase for the SOM-J Missile, export variant of SOM enabling firing from weapon bay of F-35 JSF, continue at full speed. To this end, the Design Update Stage has been accomplished and the product integration and qualification stage have been initiated.

Within the scope of the 35 mm Airburst Core Complex Development Project (ParM) developed with the cooperation of Aselsan, TÜBİTAK SAGE and MKEK, TÜBİTAK SAGE has accomplished the product and production line qualification stage and fulfilled all its contractual obligations.

Elimination of the threats confronted by our country, which are mostly developed by the terrorist attacks, particularly airborne destruction of missiles, namely Katyusha that fell over Kilis city and its surroundings, became a primary subject and in line with the directives of our Minister of National Defense Mr. Fikri Işık.  Following the ParM Project, TÜBİTAK SAGE launched the development studies of the 35 mm airburst ammunition core complex (ROKEM) which is active against the aforementioned missile. Through the tests that verify analyses and efficiency calculations, development studies of the core complex were finalized successfully.

Defence Turkey: The Indigenous Air Traffic Control Simulator (atcTRsim) jointly developed by TÜBİTAK BİLGEM and State Airports Administration (DHMİ) Air Navigation Department ATM R&D Engineering launched its operations. Will Turkey’s foreign dependency in this area decrease with the launch of this system developed by TÜBİTAK BİLGEM and installed by Havelsan? Which capabilities will this system bring?

One of DHMİ’s important R&D projects, namely the Air Traffic Controller Training Simulator (atcTRsim) was developed with the cooperation of DHMİ and TÜBİTAK and installed at the Esenboğa Airport Training and Simulation Facilities by Havelsan and has initiated its activities as Turkey’s first Indigenous Air Traffic Controller Training Simulator.

The Proximity/Field Control Radar Simulator has the capacity of simultaneous eight controller operation positions composed of planning and implementation and eight virtual pilot positions capacity. Aerodrome Control Simulator has a 360-degree backlit tower environment and also the capacity of eight virtual pilot positions. 

In order to prepare the exercises to be used in the training, components enabling the data access to the system and readiness of the exercises were developed. These components consist of airport, air space, procedure, air vehicle, metrology, exercise planning and airstrip organization vehicles.  Moreover, Performance Evaluation Tool allows for the evaluation of the achievements and performance of the controller candidates who are assigned to the Proximity/field Control and Aerodrome Control units.  This tool prepares scenarios that run over the system.  The capabilities of the user trainees and their implementation of operational procedures can be measured, tracking user development over time.  

The three-dimensional models of the new airports and modifications over the air space could be easily applied to the atcTRsim designed in an expandable structure. With the launch of the system, the DHMİ Directorate has at least doubled its training capacity for the Air Traffic Controllers.

In addition to the basic air traffic controller training, the atcTRsim system can be utilized in giving advanced level air traffic controller training when required, in their readiness in emergency cases, in giving operation trainings in cases of structural changes in the air space and emergence of new operation techniques and during the execution of the Air Traffic Management activities.  This will eliminate our country’s foreign dependency in this field.

Defence Turkey: Within the scope of the development of the local railway signalization systems activities conducted by TÜBİTAK with the Turkish State Railways (TCDD), Ankara YHT Railway Station has been equipped with the signalization systems manufactured by TÜBİTAK BİLGEM and launched its operations. What are your expectations regarding this area and the impact of your studies in decreasing foreign dependency? 

As known, an important part of the Turkish railway system is that it still lacks signalization systems and a significant portion of which have expired their lifetime.  Signalization systems is the most critical component of secure operation of the railway traffic.  Because of the deficiencies in this area, activities were launched under the partnership of TCDD and TÜBİTAK BİLGEM. As a result of these activities, we achieved domestic development of interlocking systems and traffic control center, which are the most critical components of the railway signalization.  

These systems that we developed are activated in the Ankara YHT Railway Station and the manufacturing and installation activities spanning a total of 500 km long railway are being conducted as well. Additionally, we are negotiating with TCDD on certain new projects.

We attach great importance to the local development of these critical security systems, which were fully provided with foreign dependency.  We are pleased that the TÜBİTAK systems are popular in Turkish Railways. 

Defence Turkey: Dear Prof. Arif Ergin, will TÜBİTAK place itself on a global scale within the next decades? 

National sovereignty and independence of a country; is equal to its assertiveness as well as its success and impact in the ‘international’ arena. Moreover, the prestige of a country in science and technology is measured with the quantity and power of the countries cooperating or wishing to cooperate or open to cooperate.  The global economic relations and work share are directly related to the scientific and technological competencies and capabilities of nations. Nowadays, international cooperation in such areas is inevitable and it started to assume a determining role in the establishment of future economic and commercial relations with high added value based on research and innovation.

International studies with joint authors started to appear almost as a scientific pre-condition. For instance, approximately 60% of the scientific publishing of Science magazine are composed of international studies formed by researchers from at least two different countries. Considering that this rate remained below 20% in 1992, it’s possible to observe the level of progress with the speed of internationalization in high impact academic research.

Increasing cooperation in international industry in addition to international academic cooperation is an effective way to access the most advanced technologies and markets in a way to allow higher added value in the long run, in addition to attracting foreign investments to our country. These types of cooperative approaches also bear importance in respect to reaching information in advance, information that is related to industrial standards and regulations, and this can create a competitive advantage. The research and innovation projects of our companies facilitates effective access to new markets by supporting the cooperation with customers, suppliers or international shareholders in rival positions in target markets and increases their export potential. Therefore, the aim here is to design international cooperation not only with academic purposes but also for industrial institutions, promoting research and development activities regarding advanced technologies, products and services that will increase the competitive power in world markets. 

In the current international state of affairs, as no country has the power to struggle with the issues such as climate change, food and energy security or global migration alone, international cooperation in science, technology and innovation areas become inevitable.  In order to produce solutions for global issues and to make scientific advancements, it is essential to benefit from scientific methods, resources, research funding facilities and researchers all over the world, we must go beyond our borders. 

As TÜBİTAK, in order to gain strength and influence in the rapidly globalizing research and innovation processes, we are accomplishing activities that are turning our country into a conjunction point for global R&D and innovation cooperation networks. In line with this target, we are closely following opportunities for global cooperation, developing participation strategies, conducting ‘science diplomacy’ activities that contribute extensively to our competitive capacity, designing innovative mechanisms and introducing them to the benefit of Turkey’s Research Field. 

Defence Turkey: Thank you for your valuable contributions.