EghtesadOnline: The University of Tehran and Tehran University of Medical Sciences have joined hands to establish a mega technology center called Knowledge City in the capital, the head of UT’s Science and Technology Park said.
Abbas Zarei added that the project is financed by the two universities, Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology and the private sector. It will be spread over 428,000 square meters around the University of Tehran in District 6 and accommodate over 600 knowledge-based and tech firms, ISNA reported.
“The center will include four tech towers specialized in health, biotechnology, information and communication technologies, and veterinary fields. The center will support smart, environment-friendly and innovative solutions,” he added.
According to Zarei, the center will contribute to national efforts for transforming Iran’s oil-based economy into a knowledge-based ecosystem.
He added that the project is estimated to be completed in a matter of years and would be a major step toward developing the technology ecosystem.
According to project organizers, the Knowledge City is aimed at setting up an entrepreneur university, boosting education and research, increasing interactions between the academia and urban managers, supporting knowledge-based companies and affecting businesses in the university’s vicinity.
It will also help nurture professional workforce in a variety of fields, generate knowledge, meet social demands through modern technologies and promote Persian language and culture at the international levels.
The plan was designed in the summer of 2017 after extensive studies into urban development, population density, urban pattern, historical category of the location, environmental issues, infrastructure, road traffic and economic matters.
In 2019, the chancellors of universities finalized the plan and started absorbing fiscal resources to get the project off the ground.
Officials say financial issues pose the main impediment to the execution of the project.
Academia Steps In
In early February, Tehran-based Shahid Beheshti University opened 10 innovation centers to strengthen ties between the academia and Iran’s startup ecosystem.
Established with the financial support of the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology, the innovation centers are specialized in medical technologies, human sciences, computer engineering, psychology, geology, urban development, literature, theology, architecture and power engineering.
Tech teams in the centers have an opportunity to interact with the university’s scientific faculty and students, and to exchange experiences. They will be able to benefit from the startup accelerators and growth centers based in the university’s tech park.
Vice President Sorena Sattari promised that his office will offer financial aid to tech teams for developing and commercializing their innovative ideas.
“Universities should identify market demands and develop novel solutions to address them while encouraging students to work in those fields,” he added.
Sa’dollah Nassiri Qeidari, the head of the university’s tech park, said tech centers will focus on problem-oriented research projects.
“Some of the projects handled by the center’s tech teams include fiber optic sensors, optogenetics, photonics, micro-fluids and optical brain imaging, which are mostly derived from the students’ dissertation projects,” he said.
“Giving support to such studies guarantees that tech teams will devise solutions for technological gaps in the domestic industries.”
A similar move by the academia was launched in November 2020, when two innovation centers were launched by Iran’s University of Science and Technology to help the technology ecosystem grow in energy and water technologies.
Sattari inaugurated the new centers called Hydrotech and Energy.
He said the tech centers are mandated to help expand and commercialize the activities of the university’s research center for applied hydrodynamics and water-based systems.
“The innovation centers will tap the university’s potentials and capabilities to meet domestic industrial demands, master technological know-how, nurture knowledge-based companies and commercialize tech ideas,” he added.
Jabbarali Zakeri, the university’s chancellor, told reporters that the tech centers will support the innovative activities of university graduates in mechanical studies.
The tech centers will specialize in water and agriculture technologies, particularly greenhouse farming based on deep tech—the generic term for technologies not focused on end-user services—that include artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, advanced material science, photonics and electronics, biotech and quantum computing.
Stressing that the centers will forge a link between engineering sciences and technology, Zakeri said around 20 groups of talented students and professional graduates will start working at the centers.
Strong Role of Universities
The outstanding achievements of tech firms and knowledge-based companies have lured different sectors to make investments in the field.
Universities have also extended support by allowing access to campus areas and extending financial support to tech teams.
Besides forming innovation centers and attracting tech teams, universities can utilize their scientific edge to help startups.
Such efforts are a synergetic move to advance the tech ecosystems of Tehran and other Iranian cities.
Two months ago, Sharif University of Technology in Tehran and Astan Quds Razavi, a charitable organization in Khorasan Razavi Province, launched an innovation factory adjacent to Ferdowsi University of Mashhad.
The center is specialized in repairing medical equipment and clinical devices, which will help save $420 million annually.
In addition, Zanjan University of Medical Sciences, located in the namesake province, has joined the vice presidential office to invest 320 billion rials ($1.25 million) in an innovation center to develop unique ideas and commercialize tech-based plans in a wide range of health fields.
Golestan University of Medical Sciences hosts an innovation center working on health technology, which also offers virtual visits for clinical diagnosis and post-treatment support and consultancy services.
The center is also providing technical, scientific and commercial support to innovative teams and aiding efforts to commercialize their ideas.