EghtesadOnline: Since March 2018, Iran National Innovation Fund has offered loans and aid packages to the tune of 13 trillion rials ($113 million) to Iranian startups and tech firms, a deputy at INIF said on Tuesday.
Siavash Malekifar was speaking at a meeting with managers of tech firms in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan.
The INIF deputy said, “Since the beginning of last [fiscal] year [started March 2018], Iran National Innovation Fund has provided 4,500 knowledge-based companies active across the country with loans worth over 13 trillion rials [$113 million].”
The fund is affiliated to the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology. It became operational in 2013 after President Hassan Rouhani took office, according to Financial Tribune.
The Rouhani administration established the fund with an initial investment of 30 trillion rials ($260 million). As per the law, the government is required to allocate 0.5% of its annual budget to INIF.
The fund’s website, Nsfund.ir, quotes Malekifar as saying that INIF will continue to give financial support to fledgling tech firms.
According to him, the fund has outsourced its tasks to its provincial offices and coordinated with some local banks to expand the availability of services.
Accelerating the growth of knowledge-based firms and supporting startups have been high on the government’s agenda in the past few years. This includes establishing tech centers, providing workplaces and offering financial grants to fledgling companies.
Malekifar said companies can refer to 20 provincial funds nationwide to apply for loans to the tune of 5 billion rials ($43,470).
"Besides, more reputable companies can refer to 10 state-run and private banks in contract with INIF and apply for loans worth 70% of their past year's revenue," he said.
On a narrower scale, the director of Khorasan Razavi Research and Technology Fund said that in the past decade, 600 billion rials ($5.2 million) have been paid to innovators as low-interest loans.
Visiting a tech center in Kashmar, Hamideh Razavi said that since 2008, the fund has been extensively offering financial aid to entrepreneurs to help them flourish and push the technological ecosystem in the province toward success.
"Money has always been the missing piece of the puzzle for the realization of innovative ideas," Razavi said, adding that it is important to provide researchers and tech teams with financial resources and mentorship to help them develop their ideas and promote the tech sector.
More Tech Centers
In a new push for establishing tech centers to support knowledge-based companies and startups, Tehran Industrial Estate Company has announced that a knowledge-based industrial town will be built in Rey County, southern Tehran.
Saber Parnian, the head of the company, told ISNA that a 200-hectare land in Rey has been allocated for the project, which is to be financed by the private sector.
"Preliminary agreements on technical issues and sponsorship have been made. The construction of tech town will begin as soon as the required permits are issued by the Department of Natural Resources and Watershed, and other official bodies," he said.
As a frontrunner among Iranian cities in developing the technology ecosystem, Tehran houses several tech parks and innovation factories. The would-be town, however, will be the first large-scale tech project in the capital.
“Innovative teams and tech firms willing to work on different industrial sectors can move to the town, simultaneously having access to experienced mentors, legal advisors and technical professionals, along with the chance to exchange experience with other tech units in their proximity,” Parnian added.
He estimated that in case the project becomes operational by the end of the current Iranian year (March 2020), the town will be completed in at most five years.
Experts believe that besides offering tech teams with workspace and sponsorship in different areas, motivation is also needed to oil the wheels of technology in innovation centers and startups.
Since nothing like a contest can trigger creativity and reveal new ideas among startups and knowledge-based companies, the University of Applied Science and Technology plans to hold nationwide startup contests.
Mohammad Hossein Mousazadeh also told reporters that the provincial campuses of the university are to organize local startup competitions all over the country, inviting enthusiasts in various scientific and technical fields to present their latest ideas and progress plans.
The schedule of the contests will soon be announced by the university, Mousazadeh said.
Outstanding participants will get the opportunity to be introduced and forge ties with investors to advance in the domestic market.
"Promoting knowledge-based companies and startups in industries is an untapped solution to curb the country's dependence on oil-based revenues and push domestic industries closer to a knowledge-based economy," he added.
Supporting the technological ideas of developers and involving them in conventional industries have topped the government's agenda since President Hassan Rouhani started his first term in office in 2013.
Experts believe that promoting technological products and applying smart solutions in industrial sectors can curb Iran's reliance on oil revenues and imports.