SAHA Istanbul, Thrives in Continued Growth with Participation of New Companies

We had an exclusive interview with İlhami KELEŞ, Secretary General of SAHA Istanbul Defense and Aerospace Cluster Association, Turkey`s largest and the fastest growing industrial cluster, about SAHA Istanbul’s founding purpose, its services and support provided to member companies, activities carried out and/or supported in 2020, its 2021 targets and expectations, and the performance of SAHA Expo 2020 - Turkey`s first virtual defense and aerospace exhibition - since its opening on November 9, 2020.

Date: Issue 105 - April 2021

Defence Turkey: Could you briefly summarize SAHA Istanbul's story of around 6 years since its establishment, the founding purpose and its accomplishments during this period?

İlhami KELEŞ: SAHA Istanbul was established by initiatives of 27 founding members also from the Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB), Istanbul Chamber of Industry (ISO) and Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (ITO) on March 17, 2015, with the aim of performing activities in the Northern Marmara corridor which covers 54% of Turkey’s industrial production. After its foundation, in 2016 SAHA commercial enterprise was established, and the Yıldız Technopark Liaison Office was opened. Entitled to MKFED Membership, our cluster moved to its current office in Teknopark Istanbul in 2017. 2018 was quite hectic for SAHA Istanbul. As a member of the European Cluster Association, it set a target for itself of becoming Europe's second largest defense industry cluster. In the same year, it carried out the SAHA EXPO 2018 Defense Industry Exhibition. This exhibition, unlike other Defense Industry fair organized in our country, brought together companies that contribute or wish to contribute to the defense industry as manufacturers/suppliers. One year after the exhibition, SAHA EXPO Inc. was established to carry out fair organization activities internally. In the same year, the first of our MBA programs was initiated to train executives for the defense industry, started by SAHA Akademi Inc. In the first months of 2020, with the Covid-19 outbreak in December 2019, the whole world and our country felt the unprecedented impact of the pandemic. During the fight against the pandemic, we produced the products needed locally with our members. We shifted our networking activities to a digital platform and supported our members in learning new skills by organizing "Webinars". In addition, the SAHA MBA Program, which we aim to make a global brand, continued in hybrid mode. With these activities, 2020 was fruitful in all aspects for SAHA Istanbul. Within the scope of the "Gaziantep Defense Industry Development" Cooperation Protocol signed between Gaziantep Chamber of Industry and SAHA Istanbul, the SAHA Istanbul Gaziantep Branch was opened.