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The city has capitalised on its location at the crossroads of two continents to become a major intercontinental trading, retail and logistics hub. Indeed, the sector accounts for 15% of the city’s GDP.
The city’s ambitious plans for the future rests on two pillars: becoming a major gateway, and a leading knowledge hub growth.
In this direction, projects that support the city to reach its potential in many areas, especially in trade and tourism, continue to be carried out. Istanbul Airport’s US$12 billion expansion will make it the world’s largest airport when it becomes fully complete by 2025, with the capacity to handle 200 million passengers and six million tonnes of cargo per year. The project will reinforce Istanbul as one of the world’s premier tourism destinations.
The gateway will include the US$1.7 billion Galataport, a new cruise port and a number of bridges and tunnels that will connect the sprawling cities that will connect it to Asia and Europe.
Boosting Istanbul’s credentials as a logistics hub, the city is also investing in bolstering its manufacturing base, including electronics and automotive parts, and transitioning to higher value products such as aerospace.
The city is building a university ecosystem and leveraging its educational hub to nurture the domestic workforce, attract global talent and create an ecosystem where innovation, technology and research and development can thrive.
The city has more than 650,000 students enrolled in 56 public and private universities, of which five are globally recognised.
The competition for global talent, however, is fierce. Apart from many European cities that are seen as seats of culture, education and innovation, Istanbul is also competing with Middle East, North Africa and Turkey (MENAT) peers such as Dubai, Doha, Riyadh and Cairo for talent and venture capital interest.
The Turkish authorities will need to continue to develop a more responsive regulatory regime and offer higher incentives to attract global talent.
In addition, Istanbul ranks 16th in the top 100 emerging innovation ecosystems, performing well for access to funding and VC activity as well as market reach. With around 2,500 recognised tech-enabled firms, the city ranks in the top 50 globally for the number of firms. Istanbul has also been emerging as a regional hub for digital gaming. It has been one of the fastest-growing e-sports markets and has recently opened the largest e-sports arena in Europe and Middle East, bringing together players and content creators. Furthermore, Istanbul is home to mobile game company Peak Games, Turkey’s first unicorn.