EghtesadOnline: The state-backed Iran National Innovation Fund has launched schemes to expand the export of knowledge-based products by giving support to tech firms.
The efforts are aimed at further strengthening the Iranian technology ecosystem.
Speaking in an IRIB live telecast, Siavash Malekifar, a deputy at INIF, said knowledge-based companies are offered support in four categories, namely loans, warranties, investments and empowerment services.
“Firms with international trade can receive financial support, foreign leasing, loans for foreign customers and other services to expand their export and target market,” he added.
Malekifar noted that offering grants worth 800 million rials ($4,900) to firms for attending foreign expos is one of the other services offered by the fund to help tech firms develop foreign businesses ties.
According to the official, export centers were established in China, Azerbaijan, India, Iraq and Kirgizstan last year, which turned out to have high capacity for introducing Iranian high-tech products to the target market.
“Officials are negotiating to open similar centers in Afghanistan, Qatar, Oman and Kenya,” he said.
Malekifar said export centers provide tech firms with shared working space, the opportunity to employ local professionals for marketing, featuring their products in small-scale exhibitions, market analysis, marketing and sale consultancy, and deploying commercial teams to introduce the firms and attract customers.
Iranian officials believe that the government's financial support to knowledge-based companies and tech firms have paid off.
State officials say they will continue to back the tech units for curbing the country's dependency on oil-based revenues and convert the conventional domestic economy to a knowledge-based one.
Loans regularly offered to startups and tech firms constitute a major example of government support for the sector. Iranian knowledge-based companies and tech firms received 137.6 trillion rials ($849.3 million) in loans during the last Iranian year (ended March 19, 2020), the Central Bank of Iran said.
According to a recent CBI report, during the year, a total of 1,108 tech units applied for loans that averaged 124.2 billion rials ($766,600). The figures show a 74.5% rise compared to the amount of loans paid in 2018-19.
CBI Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati said the bank is willing to continue its allocation of financial facilities to help the tech ecosystem flourish.
In early April, Hemmati said the bank was mulling collaboration with INIF to establish support centers in all provinces to ease startups’ access to legal and financial support.
Besides the provincial funding centers, plans are under consideration to set up offices for offering specialized services to firms active in the fields of nanotechnology, social innovative services and the internet of things, he added.
The government is also expanding resources for information and communication technology companies.
INIF has invested 140 billion rials ($864,000) 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 sign contracts with eligible knowledge-based companies.
Mohammad Ali Bahreini, the head of Nano-Fund Department at the council, said the contracts are geared toward the production of N95 and N99 facemasks needed by the medical staff to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The money is also to be spent on upgrading machinery, especially electrospinning machines, used in the production of masks,” he added.
Besides the investment, INIF announced in mid-March that it plans to pay 45 trillion rials ($277.7 million) in loans to knowledge-based companies and tech firms to boost their operations.
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.
Reportedly, bolstering the domestic production has not only helped meet domestic demand but also oiled the wheels of exports.
Current Export Status
Endeavors to expand international tech ties are mostly aimed at curbing Iran's dependence on oil-based revenues and expanding its technology ecosystem, considering the economic hardships imposed on Iran by US sanctions.
Malekifar said knowledge-based companies can enter different industrial and commercial fields and create high income records, as they did last year.
The Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology earlier announced that Iranian knowledge-based companies and tech firms have earned 1.2 quadrillion rials ($7.5 billion) from the export of technological products in the last Iranian year (ended March 19).
The figures say tech firms’ income has been on an upward trajectory over the past several years, starting from 600 trillion rials ($3.7 billion) in 2017-18 to 900 trillion rials ($5.5 billion) in the year ending March 2019.
The officials believe that given the domestic potential and the enthusiasm of tech teams, exports will soon reach 5 quadrillion rials ($30.8 billion) and it is not a farfetched goal.