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EghtesadOnline: An innovation center called Khayyam has been inaugurated in the holy city of Mashhad, Khorasan Razavi Province, to convert smart ideas into businesses and establish links between knowledge-based companies and industrial groups.

The center, which was already hosting several startups and knowledge-based firms, was officially launched on Tuesday by Sorena Sattari, vice president for science and technology, Financial Tribune reported.

Khayyam offers a wide range of services to startups, including consultation, acceleration and financial support. Startups can also get working spaces, the office’s website reported.

The innovation center is focused on developing natural perfumes and eco-friendly pesticides, as well as anti-narcotic and stem-cell technologies. 

According to officials, the center can house up to 250 tech units and create 1,000 jobs.

During the inaugural event, 20 tech teams already settled in the innovation center, mainly working on perfumes, pesticides and electronic kits, signed agreements with large industrial firms.

As per the agreement, knowledge-based firms and tech teams have committed to help bridge the technological gaps in industries via their innovative products and ideas.

Considering the current economic hardships faced by the country in the wake of US sanctions, fostering such connections between domestic potentials can help grow the country’s industrial and technological ecosystems. 

Speaking at the event, Sattari pictured a 10-year perspective of the tech ecosystem in the province and said, “In the next 10 years, a 12-story innovation tower and several tech centers are expected to come on stream in Mashhad, which can create 10,000 jobs. Hopefully, at least 40 tech teams will commercialize their products annually.”

The shrine city of Mashhad is rapidly widening local facilities for tech-based groups and taking steps toward the materialization of knowledge-based economy.

Besides establishing a sci-tech park and several small-scale innovation centers, a former soft drinks factory will be repurposed into a tech center.

The abandoned factory is adjacent to Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, covering a 15,000-square meter area.



Growing Trend

The establishment of innovation factories and tech centers has gained momentum across Iran over the past several years.

The most recent project for building an innovation factory was launched in Gorgan, the provincial center of Golestan, late last week.

The commencement of the project was announced by Hadi Haqshenas, Golestan’s governor general, on Wednesday.

As mapped, the would-be innovation factory will cover 3,600 square meters of area in Gorgan city center. 

“Launched with a budget of 50 billion rials [$316,000], the project is expected to become operational in a year,” Haqshenas said. 

The project, like many other similar projects underway in the Iranian cities, are part of the move applauded by President Hassan Rouhani since he 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 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 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.

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

According to Esmaeil Qaderifar with the vice presidential office, innovation factory projects in the provinces of Markazi and Fars are almost complete and will become operational in the coming months.

The Roads and Urban Development Ministry, municipalities and governorates in the host cities are assisting the vice presidential office in implementing these projects.  

Startups and knowledge-based companies find legal, technical and financial support to expand their activities in innovation factories.



Knowledge-Based Revenue 

The government believes that giving financial and technical facilities to fledgling tech firms can help them expand their businesses and curb the country's reliance on oil-based revenues.

According to Sattari, Iran has more than 4,700 knowledge-based companies that have earned 1 quadrillion rials ($6.32 billion) from the export of technological products in the first half of the current Iranian year (started March 2019).

The income has been on an upward trajectory over the past several years, increasing from 600 trillion rials ($3.7 billion) in the year ending March 2018 to 900 trillion rials ($5.6 billion) last year, Sattari added.

He emphasized that the figures prove that the solution to economic hardships facing Iran today can be found inside and not outside the country.


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