EghtesadOnline: As the novel coronavirus resurges in Iran, authorities tap potentials of local tech firms and startup ecosystem to fight the viral outbreak.
Basij, the grassroots arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, held an online nationwide tech contest on Thursday to challenge tech teams and knowledge-based companies to develop ideas and high-tech items that could help battle the coronavirus disease, Covid-19, IRIB News reported.
Mehdi Haqqi, the event organizer, said the contest was arranged in four categories, namely economic, social and medical aspects of coronavirus and disease management.
“Following a public call for the innovators, over 7,000 ideas, products and plans were sent to the event’s secretary, among which 200 were selected to receive financial aid from investors to work on their ideas and commercialize their plans,” he said.
“The applicants, who were not selected as winners, received an online mentorship training session to troubleshoot and review their plans.”
Haqqi said the contest was based on “open innovation”, which is the use of the inflow and outflow of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation and expand the market for external use.
In open innovation, instead of a research center working on a problem, the issue is shared among the elite and professionals in a larger framework. The innovators then brainstorm to find the best set of solutions.
Extending efficient health protection against Covid-19 has become a concern among Iranian officials. The government, however, has put great efforts into developing the technology ecosystem as a helping hand in bridging the shortfalls.
The state’s support has reportedly paid off, as startups and tech firms demonstrated their enhanced capacities in the production of high-tech medical items.
Knowledge-based companies at a science and technology park in the northern province of Mazandaran have made forays into the field of personal protective equipment by establishing production lines.
According to Morteza Saberian, the head of the park’s public relations office, respiratory ventilators, medical infectious waste treatment devices, respiratory facemasks, medical sterilizers, medical and surgical gowns and different types of sanitizers are among the park’s tech products.
Elaborating further, Saberian said the daily output of disinfectants tops 50,000 liters daily.
The technology ecosystem is also producing health-protective items, such as silicone gloves, face shields, nanotech surgical-medical gowns and hand sanitizers, at Hamedan Province’s tech park.
The surgical gown production rate reaches 1,000 per day, in addition to 5,000 liters of hand sanitizers and 3,000 face shields.
In April, Sorena Sattari, the vice president for science and technology, elaborated on the latest achievements of knowledge-based companies and startups working in medical fields.
He said several studies have been conducted on the nature of Covid-19 in collaboration with the academia and tech firms to help develop health-protective products.
“Fortunately, these endeavors have paid off, as different types of coronavirus test kits, which work with blood samples and saliva, have been successfully mass-produced by domestic tech firms. This can help test several million people per week,” he said.
Sattari noted that hospitals are not facing any shortage of devices, including CT scan devices, ventilators, ICU and surgery room equipment, oxygen concentrators and BiPAP machines.
“Surgical and N95 facemasks are being produced in the country and soon 40 new production lines will be added to the current capacity,” he said.
The official said the government’s huge investment in the development of knowledge-based companies has paid off, as tech-based businesses are contributing considerably to the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite their diligent efforts to help buttress the fight against the coronavirus, startups, tech firms and knowledge-based companies have been severely hit by the negative effects of the outbreak.
As a result, Iranian authorities are increasing support to these entities.
In mid-March, the government-backed Iran National Innovation Fund announced that it is planning to pay 50 trillion rials ($206 million) in loans to knowledge-based companies and tech firms to boost their operations.
With the Covid-19 outbreak thrashing the Iranian startup ecosystem’s prospects, the state fund has extended an aid package to the sector.
According to INIF chief, Ali Vahdat, some 200 firms expressed interest in receiving the fund, although only the most eligible will be selected.
“The move is aimed at increasing the production of health-protective items needed during the pandemic, including facemasks, hand sanitizers, alcohol-based disinfectants and medical air disinfectant machines, along with antibacterial fabrics and covers for hospital use,” he said.
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.
Vahdat noted that the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology and Iran Nanotechnology Innovation Council have agreed to scrutinize the credentials of applicants and introduce the final list of eligible firms.
Referring to the spread of novel coronavirus in the country, Vahdat said the pandemic cannot be controlled without utilizing the potentials of the domestic tech ecosystem.
“The country’s knowledge-based economy, which has currently grown significantly, is being helped by young entrepreneurs and tech teams to withstand the negative effects of the disease,” he added.
The coronavirus has so far infected 13,952,529 people around the world, claiming the lives of 592,767. The number of recovered cases has reached 8,284,343, according to a Reuters report on Friday.
Iran reported the virus outbreak in mid-February, which has so far taken the lives of 13,608 people out of a total of 267,061 infected people.
According to Iran’s Health Ministry, 230,608 patients have so far recovered from the disease.