053. What diplomats do – Trade mission to Bursa 12 and 13 October

Nothing beats the happy faces of a business delegation that has to leave very, very early in the morning, but then is offered fresh coffee.
As part of the Holland Turkey Business Tour 2015, a large group of mainly local Dutch business people and colleagues went to Bursa on 12 and 13 October. On the ferry we enjoyed the choppy Sea of Marmara, indeed some coffee and somewhat surprisingly even a Dutch movie: ‘the New Wilderness’. An excellent movie, but too many dead animals too early in the day for my taste.

Regional business tours are something new in our package offered to Dutch businesses in Turkey. From Istanbul this was the 3rd mission, after earlier trips to Kocaeli and Tekirdag. The main conclusion so far: there is a lot of economic life outside of Istanbul. Ongoing infrastructure projects will create a ring- and railroad around the Sea of Marmara, bringing cities like Bursa much closer to Istanbul. This will be an important impuls for future economic development. At the moment 30% of the population of Turkey lives around the Sea of Marmara, generating 40% of Turkey’s GDP, but this percentage will go up. In an earlier blog I described this region as the Dutch Randstad, but with a blue heart.

The historic Bursa centre is beautiful, reflecting its centuries old history, including having been the first Ottoman Capital in the 14th century. Modern, economic Bursa, with almost 2 million inhabitants, is a vibrant and dynamic city. The province of Bursa is Turkey’s 4th most populous province with 2.7 million people. Its 69.000 enterprises generate 12% of Turkey’s export revenues. Focus is on automotive, food processing, plastics, textiles, metal forming and machinery sectors.

Iskender kebab
We went to Bursa not only with 20 companies, but also with the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA), The Dutch Business Association (DBA), the Advisor for Innovation, Technology & Science , the Head of the economic cluster and and the Nuffic Neso Turkey (Netherlands Education Support Office Turkey). As often during these missions the interaction among the participants was very valuable, in the bus, during the company visits and of course during the delegation dinner. I am a semi vegetarian, so the well-known Iskender Kebab would not have been my first choice, but…when in Rome do as the Romans do.
The trip took place just after the horrifying terrorist attack in Ankara on October 10th. The whole Sunday we consulted our partners and friends in Bursa whether we would come and if so in what way. In the end, encouraged by Bursa, we decided to come, but in an adapted way, skipping the cultural component and other more festive elements. And of course we discussed at length the tragedy with our interlocutors. It was the right decision, but clearly the Ankara explosions overshadowed our trip and saddened all of us.

All in all, the industry in Bursa is an interesting mix of advanced automotive production to marginally profitable food production in dire need of upgrading and modernization. My impression is that there are many opportunities for Dutch companies as well as Dutch applied knowledge institutions. Since the area is one of Turkey’s production powerhouses, it could be interesting for Dutch companies and knowledge institutions active in Smart Industry applications, which under the name of Industry 4.0 gained a lot of attention the last year. Approximately 30 Dutch companies have already established themselves in Bursa. The University of Uludag was impressive and there is eagerness for more cooperation between this University and the Netherlands.
On the way back, no coffee, but napping and enjoying the sunset with fortunately a much calmer Sea of Marmara.

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