EghtesadOnline: In a new push to enrich the technology ecosystem in provinces, Iran’s private sector is to finance the establishment of an innovation factory in the western province of Lorestan.
The project is to be backed by Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, and the Lorestan chapter of ICCIMA.
In a Saturday meeting of provincial decision-makers, Hossein Selahvarzi, the head of Lorestan Chamber of Commerce and the deputy head of ICCIMA, said the two bodies are ready to fund the construction of an innovation factory in Khorramabad, the central city of Lorestan, Financial Tribune reported.
According to the ICCIMA's website, Selahvarzi said, "We are ready to allot 20 billion rials [$148,148] to the project, which is approximately half of the total budget required to erect the factory."
Lorestan Governorate and the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology have also voiced support for the project.
The ICCIMA official called on private investors to consider the project as a long-term investment opportunity and join the group of sponsors.
The project is expected to provide emerging tech units in the province with infrastructure, including equipped workspace, to boost employment, generate added value and prevent brain drain, he added.
Selahvarzi emphasized that the livelihood of economic activities is strongly tied to the operation of knowledge-based companies, therefore, it is necessary to offer them financial, technical and legal support.
During the gathering, experts were tasked with designing the project, its timetable and a suitable location to establish the factory in Lorestan.
The provincial move does not stop here. Experts say support for startups and fledgling tech firms will continue after they settle in the would-be factory.
This is mostly evident by an innovation support fund jointly established in Lorestan in mid-December by the province's Science and Technology Park and the state-backed Iran National Innovation Fund.
The fund will financially support the emerging startups and knowledge-based companies, and facilitate their growth.
Officials say that although the fund is established with a limited initial investment of 30 billion rials ($222,000) in the near future, the financial clout of the center will increase as private investors and the government inject more money.
"Currently, the fund is ready to offer cheap loans at an interest rate of 4-16% to tech units," Amin Hassanvand, deputy director of the tech park, then told the media.
Hassanvand noted that as part of efforts to support the development of technology ecosystem in the region, 20 hectares of Lorestan University's campus have been earmarked to build an innovation center.
“The project is aimed at providing shared working space for the operating and emerging tech units in Lorestan. The proximity of the potential innovation center will benefit the fledgling startups that can utilize the theoretical knowledge of the university students and instructors, as well as laboratory equipment,” he said.
The establishment of tech centers, science and technology parks and innovation factories has gained momentum across Iran over the past several years.
The move has accelerated since President Hassan Rouhani began his first term in office in 2013 and put extra focus on extending support to new startups and technology firms.
Over the past few years, numerous tech parks have been established throughout the country.
Naturally, the Iranian capital city, Tehran, pioneers the trend with seven tech parks and two innovation factories.
Most of the parks are backed by major Iranian universities, including Tarbiat Modares University, University of Tehran, Sharif University of Technology, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Shahid Beheshti University and Islamic Azad University.
These tech parks carry the name of universities backing them.
Pardis Technology Park in eastern Tehran also has strong ties with the academia.
In addition, the first innovation factory in the metropolis, dubbed Azadi Innovation Factory, was launched in August 2018 at an abandoned chemicals factory near Azadi Square, west of Tehran. The center is backed by the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology and is managed by Sharif University of Technology.
Highway, the capital's second innovation factory, is under construction. The factory is being established in an old building near Nobonyad Square in northeastern Tehran.
As per an agreement between the office and Tehran Municipality, abandoned buildings will be transformed into tech hubs for fostering innovative ideas.
Tehran is not alone in its move to establish innovation factories and tech parks. Numerous centers have also been launched across Iran.
Innovation factories are to be launched in Iranian metropolises by the vice presidential office to expand the startup and knowledge-based ecosystems.
According to Esmaeil Qaderifar, an official with the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology, innovation factory projects in the provinces of Khorasan Razavi and East Azarbaijan are almost complete and will become operational in the coming months.
“Tabriz in East Azarbaijan will get its third innovation factory when a construction project is completed,” he said.
According to the official, feasibility studies are underway in Fars, Isfahan and Yazd provinces for introducing similar projects.
A similar project in Mashhad, the provincial center of Khorasan Razavi, became operational in September.
Qaderifar noted that the new projects resemble innovation factories in Tehran, namely Azadi and Highway innovation factories, which house numerous tech teams and startups.
“The provincial projects have also been established in abandoned factories to keep the projects cost-efficient,” he said.
The Roads and Urban Development Ministry, municipalities and governorates in the host cities are assisting the vice presidential office in implementing these projects.
At the innovation factories, startups and knowledge-based companies find legal, technical and financial support to expand their activities.