EghtesadOnline: Sharif University of Technology and Tehran Municipality are jointly developing an ‘Innovation Zone’ in central Tehran to house startups and emerging technology firms.
The zone is built on 250 hectares that incorporates the prestigious center of higher learning and its Science and Technology Park to assist startups, knowledge-based firms and tech companies, ISNA reported.
Announced on Jan. 15, details of the project were made available by university officials in separate meetings with the press.
At the unveiling ceremony, guidelines were published to introduce the zone's advantages and investment potential to private firms, Financial Tribune reported.
To help boost the zone's status and effectiveness, agreements have been signed between Sorena Sattari, vice president for science and technology, Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi and Sharif University.
In addition to motivating talented students to set up technology teams and introduce new business models, the Innovation Zone should be able to attract knowledge-based firms operating in and around Tehran, the director of Sharif Science and Technology Park said.
In a talk with the university’s in-house publication, Majid Dehbidipour said, “In light of the economic challenges the country is facing (due to the newUS sanctions) we need to tap into the vast potential of our young and talented entrepreneurs. With such potential our erudite generation can develop new business models and contribute to economic development.”
So far 450 startups have expressed interest in moving their offices to the zone.
As part of the project a ‘Tech Tower’ is being built in the zone. Dehbidipour said, “Currently under construction on 25,000 square meters of land, almost half the tower has been built.”
Named Tarasht Tech Tower, with 15 floors and 120 separate units, it should be ready for use by summer 2020, providing working space for at least 1,500 people.
Dehbidipour said besides the Innovation Zone, the university intends to build two more sites to expand its support for technology firms. “The other sites will be based in Tehran District 22 and Qods County on the western flank of the capital.”
President Hassan Rouhani and his men have boosted support for local technology firms and startups and launched projects similar to the Innovation Zone. However, many shortcomings exist that impede Iran’s move toward a technology-based economy.
Lack of physical infrastructure, poor financial and technical support, lack of backing for tech projects among policy and decision-makers and the scientific gulf in the educational system are key issues hindering national scientific efforts.
A deputy at the university, Mohammadreza Movahhedi, says that while investment in science and technology has increased in recent years, R&D is still far behind.
“Such innovation centers and startup accelerators can and will help address the issue to some extent.”
According to UNESCO, the ratio of R&D spending to GDP in Iran is a pitiful 0.4%. The government contributes 56% of the total investment in R& D, universities give 33% and the private sector 11%.
Because almost all prominent universities are state-owned, the lion’s share of investment comes from the government, directly or otherwise.
Supporting tech companies has been a priority of the Rouhani administration. Although concerted efforts are still underway, some results are visible. Knowledge-based firms and startups have shown impressive progress in a variety of sectors.