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EghtesadOnline: State authorities have recently zeroed in on tech infrastructure in Karaj, the provincial center of Alborz, to further develop the technology ecosystem in the metropolis.

The move, which is in line with the government's policy of strengthening the role of knowledge-based companies in the domestic economy, will culminate in the launch and inauguration of several tech projects in the city on Saturday, according to Financial Tribune.

During a visit to the metropolis, Sorena Sattari, the vice president for science and technology, greenlighted the completion of the innovation factory’s construction project in Karaj, the office's website reported.

Besides, project managers, contractor companies, Karaj Municipality and the vice presidential office signed an agreement to jointly complete the innovation factory.

The factory, an underdeveloped building in Hesar District, east of the city, is spread over 1.5 hectares. 

"The 10-year-old building, which is 80% complete, was intended to become a firefighting school. But with a change in plans, the project managers abandoned the repurposing plan," Sattari said.

“The building already has classrooms, restaurants and a dormitory. However, the main layout of the building might be reshaped into five different sections for improving administration.”

Sattari said the factory is expected to become operational in the coming summer.

In the past several months, tech authorities and urban managers have been searching for the most suitable place for erecting an innovation factory. 

"The building is the best choice from among the alternatives," he added.



More Good News

Karaj's tech ecosystem was further boosted by the addition of two more facilities. 

During his visit to the megacity, Sattari inaugurated Baaz innovation lab and Maad accelerator.

The lab is a kind of accelerator, powered by MAPNA Group—a group of Iranian companies specializing in different fields, including thermal and renewable power plants, oil and gas, rail transportation, manufacture of infrastructural equipment, including gas and steam turbines, electrical generator, turbine blade and vane, conventional boilers, electric and control systems, gas compressor and locomotives.

MAPNA has identified and backed innovative teams, as it enters the domestic tech market. 

According to Sattari, Baaz has started working on the internet of things and data science. 

The accelerator is backed by the vice presidential office and focused on pharmaceutical and medicinal technologies. 

Sattari said shared workplace, conference rooms, laboratories, research and study rooms are among the facilities offered by Baaz.

To extend financial support for startups and knowledge-based firms settling in the tech centers, the office is also planning to set up an affiliated fund in the city, with an initial budget of 100 billion rials ($740,000).

At the end of his trip, Sattari visited several knowledge-based companies and their innovative products in the city.



Untapped Potential

In support of the move, Alborz governor general said the city is home to over 300,000 graduates and postgraduates in a variety of specializations, making Karaj one of the untapped potentials for expanding the technology ecosystem. 

Even with no remarkable infrastructure, the talented teams have recorded a significant growth in different tech branches. 

"Such a technical and financial support will help accelerate their growth and encourage tech aficionados to join the ecosystem," he said.

These efforts will increase job opportunities for the unemployed professionals and give a boost to the local economy.

Considering the booming population in Karaj, facilities for tech teams and startups should receive more attention, he added. 

Also speaking at the event, Karaj Mayor Ali Asghar Kamalizadeh said promoting the role of knowledge-based and tech firms in the province can also contribute to upgrading urban management and solving challenges by employing innovative and smart strategies. 

"Smart management and higher productivity should be evident in urban services offered to citizens," he said.



Growing Trend

The establishment of innovation factories and tech centers 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 called for extending more support to new startups and technology firms.

Over the past few years, numerous tech parks have been established throughout the country.

The Iranian capital city, Tehran, pioneered the trend with two innovation factories.

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 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.

Besides Tehran, the vice presidential office has financed several innovation factories in Iranian metropolises to expand the startup and knowledge-based ecosystems.

Innovation factory projects in the provinces of Kurdestan, Markazi and Fars are almost complete and will become operational in the next few months.

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 specialized legal, technical and financial support to expand their activities.


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