EghtesadOnline: State-backed Iran National Innovation Fund has invested 140 billion rials ($875,000) in nanotechnology firms to boost the domestic production of health-protective items used for shielding against the novel coronavirus.
According to the fund’s website Inif.ir, Iran Nanotechnology Innovation Council has helped INIF forge contracts with eligible knowledge-based companies, Financial Tribune reported.
Mohammad Ali Bahreini, the head of Nano-Fund Department at the council, told the media that the contracts are for the production of N95 and N99 facemasks for the medical staff.
“The money is also to be spent on enhancing machinery, especially the electrospinning machines, used in the production of masks,” he added.
Electrospinning is a fiber production method that uses electric force to draw charged threads of polymer solutions or polymer melts up to fiber diameters in the order of some hundred nanometers.
The method has the potential to produce seamless non-woven items by integrating advanced manufacturing with fiber electrospinning. This would introduce multi-functionality (flame, chemical, environmental protection) by blending fibers into electrospin-laced layers in combination with polymer coatings.
Besides the investment, INIF announced in mid-March plans to pay 50 trillion rials ($303.2 million) in loans to knowledge-based companies and tech firms to boost their operations.
With the COVID-19 outbreak distorting the Iranian startup ecosystem’s prospects, the state fund is extending an aid package to the sector.
According to INIF chief Ali Vahdat, “The move is aimed at increasing the production of health-protective items needed during the pandemic, including N95 respirator and surgical masks, hand sanitizers, alcohol-based disinfectants, medical air disinfectant machines, antibacterial fabrics and coveralls for hospital use, as well as test kits and simulators.”
To receive the loan and start production, the applicant knowledge-based company should be certified by all the institutions involved, including Iran’s Food and Drug Administration and Health Ministry.
Tehran Municipality Steps In
Besides the financial help, Tehran Municipality announced early this week it is ready to help startups affected by the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus in Iran.
TM’s Information and Communication Technologies Organization announced on Wednesday that Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi has called on urban managers to help startups and fledgling tech firms affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
As part of the measures, the firms are to be allowed to use residential buildings as workplaces. The municipality also plans to roll out more incentives for the firms in the near future.
Noting that TM is authorized to define the functional purpose of buildings and issue permits based on Article 55 of Municipal Law, Hanachi said tech units can settle in residential buildings provided their activities do not cause inconvenience to neighbors.
“The startups will be allowed to continue their work in the residential buildings for three months at most, until the COVID-19 emergency ends,” he added.
Hanachi said prior to the implementation of the plan, urban managers in the metropolis should reach an agreement over the details. He did not mention if any discount will be offered to tech units leasing the apartments.
Attainments So Far
Dozens of Iranian startups and knowledge-based companies are active in the production of healthcare products and medical supplies.
The homegrown tech units have so far managed to produce coronavirus test kits with high accuracy, facemasks, Favipiravir and Avigan drugs, as well as ventilator machines that provide mechanical ventilation by moving breathable air into and out of the lungs of a patient who is physically unable to breathe, or breathing insufficiently.
Acknowledging the efforts made by the firms, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the big investment his administration has made in the development of knowledge-based companies has paid off, as those businesses are contributing considerably to the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on the sidelines of his Sunday visit to a Tehran-based exhibition of high-tech products for the fight against the novel coronavirus, Rouhani said plans to strengthen the infrastructures of domestic knowledge-based companies have boosted businesses, promoted technologies and elevated the country’s position in scientific rankings.
First reported in China’s Wuhan Province in December 2019, the coronavirus has so far infected 1,347,631 people around the world, claiming the lives of 74,782. The number of recovered cases has reached 286,453, according to Reuters reporting on Tuesday.
Iran reported the virus outbreak in mid-February, which has so far taken the lives of 3,739 people out of a total of 60,500 infected people.
According to Iran’s Health Ministry, 24,236 patients have so far recovered from the disease.