AN INITIATIVE TURNING FROM SEED TO SAPLING, FROM SAPLING TO TREE: ENTEKNO


Entekno was founded by Prof. Dr. Ender Suvaci in 2008 as a small technology development company. Getting a 1,5-million-pound investment from England last year, the company is aiming to be the first Deep Tech Unicorn from Turkey in 2030. Prof. Dr. Ender Suvaci and Dr. Oktay Uysal told about the process that turns from seed to sapling and from sapling to tree.


FATMA BATUKAN BELGE


What is the place, importance and advantages of spin-off initiatives in technology entrepreneurship according to you? What kind of opportunities does this initiative model offer in Turkey in terms of turning science into technology through universities?


Dr. Ender Suvaci: Spin-off initiatives coming out of universities has a very important place in technology entrepreneurship. It's being observed that spin-off initiatives make a large part of Deep Tech initiatives which can gain significant advantages for economic development and employment. In order to truly understand humanity's needs and develop innovative technologies that are able to create solutions addressing this, what you need in deep tech entrepreneurship is both having a deep scientific understanding of the area and advanced laboratories that enables the technology to be developed. For this reason, universities' role is very critical in constitution of these kind of entrepreneurship examples. For instance, first Anadolu University's and then Eskisehir University's approaches supporting entrepreneurship and innovation have made a great contribution to our success in our journey of entrepreneurship. I believe that Technology Transfer Offices (TTO) ever increasing in Turkey in recent years and scientific fund of knowledge established in universities have significant contributions in technology and spin-off developments and this offers important opportunities to national economy and young researchers.


Outsourced investments are seen as a milestone in the development of your initiative and technology. What are your recommendations and warnings to spin-off initiatives and all other technology entrepreneurs in getting investments quicker and easier?


Dr. Oktay Uysal: Investment is very important for growth and development. And it's critical for investments to be eligible. You have to know well about the investment ecosystem to ensure this. You have to know who are the investors, what are the criteria they seek for. Investment ecosystem in Turkey has made a significant progress in recent years. There are many more investors and they're after well-qualified jobs. If the job you do makes a global difference and has a widespread market, then your chance is quite high in finding an investor. But of course, qualifications of investors are also very important in here. Founder and the power of the team is a determinant factor. Along with this, various factors such as the developed technology, qualification of the solution offered to the market, competition in the market, protection of the intellectual property, exit opportunities of the investor are also affecting the process. An entrepreneur should know these factors well and be aware of what he/she offers.


Investments you get for your initiative, what kind of an added value they turned into to this day; what are your short, mid and long term financial goals in terms of the comeback of these investments?


Dr. Oktay Uysal: With the investments we got, we evolve from an 80 m2 office with 5 researchers working to a 5000 m2 factory with more than 50 employees. When we were a small technology development company we turned into a manufacturer active in an Organized Industry Zone. That's to say, seed is sprouted and became a sapling. Our aim is to make this sapling grow and turn into a huge tree held on to the ground with strong roots and our employees and other stakeholders to benefit more from this tree's shade and fruits. In the long-term we aim to be the first Deep Tech Unicorn coming out of Turkey in 2030. Our goals in short-term is to raise our determination and in long-term is to raise our financial power and expand in market with new technologies.

We know that foundation of Entekno in 2008 is about the production of electro ceramic powders which's your first innovative product. You have a master’s degree on Advanced Technology Ceramics in USA. And your doctorate thesis is also about a ceramic-based innovative technology. Will there be a ceramic related subject among the possible fields of use of the MicNo technology you developed after cosmetics industry?


Dr. Ender Suvaci: Absolutely… While MicNo technology offers the superior features of nanotechnology it's also a technology that eliminates negativities such as uncontrolled flocculation and potential environmental damages coming along with nanotechnology and that's why it has the potential to be used in many fields with ceramics coming at the first place. Thanks to MicNo's micron size and hexagonal shape, its' surface coverage is very high thus MicNo powders can be used as a platform technology for many applications through functionalizing it with some additives. In brief, MicNo is generic technology and and has the potential to be able to be used in many areas. Latest example of it is our MicNo-Hygiene (MicNo-Hyg) product we developed and gaining a great interest and widely used by the ceramic sector currently. With the wide plaque surface of MicNo-Hygiene, it's possible to provide a wide spectrum protection using a very little amount of antimicrobial agents. Besides, MicNo-Hygiene can be easily blended into the mill and requires no additional grinding time thanks to its' micron size. In addition to this, while MicNo-Hygiene ensures aesthetical improvements ceramic tiles, sanitary wares and porcelain surfaces, it does not create any negative effect. MicNo-Hygiene is used not only in ceramics but also in textile and plastic products to create wide spectrum antimicrobial and even antiviral surfaces. Alongside these ceramic applications, our studies are going on for the use of MicNo technology in energy field on li-ion batteries, in electricity field on antistatic coatings and in water-quality improvement field intended to provide improvements in the filtration performances of ultrafiltration membranes.


What kind of studies are you carrying out as Entekno with regards to environmental sensitivity and sustainability? Would you tell us about your goals for the future of Entekno?


Dr. Oktay Uysal: Being sensitive to environment and being sustainable is not an option anymore but becomes an obligation. Entekno's approach of producing ecology and human friendly products is continuing without any change. It's very important to us to be strong company fighting at the front among those companies struggling for a sustainable world. Along with the products already being produced, Entekno will keep this approach up for the new products it will be producing. We want contribute sustainability with our products in areas of concern such as energy, raw material limitations and water. And we continue our studies in these areas. We aim to be carbon-neutral in 2030.


Dr. Ender Suvaci: Entekno's logo compromised of the dark blue of the ocean, the green of the forest and the light blue of the sky reflects our sensitivity in our products we developed since its' foundation with regards to protecting the environment and making the world a more inhabitable place. For instance; MicNo technology is developed as a process totally using natural sources and generating zero-waste. And when you think of the ecology and human friendly features of the product you can see that MicNo is a green and sustainable technology. As Entekno, we always question ourselves during the planning phases of our projects for how can we contribute the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals set forth by United Nations.


Our final goal as Entekno, is to achieve a global structure that will deliver the eco-friendly production technologies and products we developed to the whole world and make a contribution in a way to enhance the life quality of humans and all other living beings on the planet.


Humanity has a relation with this material for 12 thousand years since the bisons of Tuc d'Audoubert cave to high technology ceramics. What do you think the future of ceramics will be like when considered the scientific studies such as the geometrical patterns of the Karraqhan Towers in Iran inspiring a futuristic material and placing terracotta tiles on a submarine to save the corals in Hong Kong waters? What is your foresight about the development of ceramics in future years in terms of technology?


Dr. Oktay Uysal: Ceramic is a very valuable material that has accompanied the humanity's adventure. It's important to reveal the value of this precious material in the best way possible. It's really hurting our heart to value a ton of it for a few hundred dollars. I believe that ceramic raw materials need to be reached to higher added values and raised to a position they deserve. Thus, through adding information and technology within every kg of ceramic raw material, its' value will raise and it can be reached to prices it deserves. R&D is very important to ensure this. R&D should not look at today but more to the future. In basic areas of concern of our future such as energy and water, it should be ensured for ceramic products to take part with the highest added value. And for this, sector and universities should make great efforts together.


Dr. Ender Suvaci: Ceramics are the materials that have been in human life for many years and will continue to be for they are natural. Using terracottas to save corals at the reefs is actually a blazing example which shows us the special bond between ceramics and living beings other than humans. I believe that traditional ceramics like tiles and sanitary wares will begin to have different functionalities as well especially with the digitalized life style. In fact, we begin to see many exemplary studies on this area. I think we will able to see more and more functional ceramic examples in time such as tiles with sensing abilities of scent and temperature sensor functions. In addition, we again will be seeing the wide use of functionalized ceramics in energy generation area and the possibility of their use even in water supply area in the upcoming days. Besides, when we think that advanced technology ceramics other than traditional ceramics are being used as capacitors, sensors, actuators and transducers in every area from energy to health, automotive, transportation and electronics in order to make human life easier, we can better understand the place and importance of ceramics for the human life in our age. There's need to develop high-performance and eco-friendly products also in the field of advanced technology ceramics and Entekno, being aware of its' responsibilities to the environment and humanity, is carrying out its' studies on this field with national and international stakeholders on developing next-generation unleaded piezoelectric ceramics and improving the performances of current piezoelectric systems.