Sci & Tech

Loans for Tech Firms to Help Combat COVID-19

With COVID-19 outbreak distorting startup ecosystem’s prospects, Iran National Innovation Fund is extending a $322.5 million aid package to the sector
Loans for Tech Firms to Help Combat COVID-19
Loans for Tech Firms to Help Combat COVID-19

The government-based Iran National Innovation Fund is planning to pay 50 trillion rials ($322.5 million) in loans to knowledge-based companies and tech firms to help boost their operations.
With the COVID-19 outbreak distorting Iran startup ecosystem’s prospects, the state fund is extending an aid package to the sector.
According to INIF chief Ali Vahdat, some 200 firms expressed interest in receiving the fund, although the most eligible will be selected for financial help, the institution’s website reported.
“The move is aimed at increasing the production of health-protective items useful during the pandemic, including N95 respirator and surgical masks, hand sanitizers, alcohol-based disinfectants, medical air disinfectant machines, antibacterial fabrics and covers for hospital use, as well as test kits along with simulators,” he said.
Dozens of Iranian startups and knowledge-based companies are active in the production of health care products and medical supplies.
To receive the loan and start production, the applicant knowledge-based company should be certified by all the institutions involved, including Iran’s Food and Drug Administration and Health Ministry.
Vahdat noted that the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology and Iran Nanotechnology Innovation Council have agreed to scrutinize the experience of applicants and introduce the final list of eligible firms.
Referring to the spread of novel coronavirus in the country, Vahdat said the pandemic cannot be controlled without utilizing the potentials of tech ecosystem.
“The country’s knowledge-based economy, which has currently grown significantly, is being helped by young entrepreneurs and tech teams to withstand the negative effects of the disease,” he added.
First reported in Iran in mid-February, the virus has so far claimed the lives of 429 people out of a total of 10,057 infected people. 
According to the Health Ministry, 3,276 patients have so far recovered from the disease.
Panic purchase by the public and hospitals’ soaring demand for the health-protective products have emptied drugstores and supermarket shelves of masks and sanitizers.
Officials say a rise in domestic production can help accelerate the replenishment of stocks.



CBI Backing Tech Firms

The Central Bank of Iran has recently announced its full support for tech firms, which could help them in recent tough days.
During a meeting with senior INIF officials last week, CBI Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati said the bank is willing to allocate financial support to help the tech ecosystem flourish. 
Pointing to INIF’s endeavors in the past several years, Hemmati said that in order to strengthen startups and knowledge-based companies, support centers will be established in all provinces, which will ease startups’ access to legal and financial support.
Besides the provincial funding centers, plans are under consideration to set up offices that would offer specialized services to firms active in fields like nanotechnology, social innovative services and the internet of things, he added.
According to INIF, 4,800 knowledge-based companies are currently active nationwide and employing over 300,000 people.



Resourceful Support

The government is optimistic that giving financial, technical and spiritual support to firms can help them expand their businesses and consequently help the country materialize a digital economy.
INIF, affiliated to the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology, and other tech authorities have played a major role in extending vital resources.
The administration of President Hassan Rouhani established the fund with an initial investment of 30 trillion rials ($193 million). As per the law, the government is required to allocate 0.5% of its annual budget to INIF.
The fund’s officials say INIF will continue to give financial support to fledgling tech firms.



Export Value

Endeavors to expand support to tech firms are mostly aimed at curbing Iran's dependence on oil-based revenues and develop its technology ecosystem, considering the economic hardships imposed on Iran, especially by US sanctions.
According to the officials, the government has put support for the ecosystem high on its agenda since President Rouhani took office during his first term in 2013. Since then, numerous startups and tech firms have been able to promote their businesses, not only in the domestic but also in foreign markets.
Reportedly, the Iranian knowledge-based companies and tech firms have earned 1 quadrillion rials ($6.4 billion) from the export of technological products in the first half of the current Iranian year (started March 2019).
Their income has been on an upward trajectory over the past several years, increasing from 600 trillion rials ($3.8 billion) in the year ending March 2018 to 900 trillion rials ($5.8 billion) last year.
Officials believe 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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