Sci & Tech

Iran's Government Continuing Extensive Support for Startups, Tech Firms

To bolster Iran’s growing startup ecosystem, state agencies have rolled out loan and aid packages over the years, in addition to establishing technology parks and accelerators
Iran's Government Continuing Extensive Support for Startups, Tech Firms
Iran's Government Continuing Extensive Support for Startups, Tech Firms

Support for Iranian startups and knowledge-based companies has been high on the agenda of President Hassan Rouhani ever since he took office in 2013.
Government officials never miss a chance to name the startup ecosystem as Iran’s major business of future that would be able to curb the country’s reliance on the sale of natural resources.
To bolster the sector, loan and aid packages have been rolled out by state agencies over the years. In addition, technology parks and accelerators have been established with government funding. 
All these efforts have created thousands of jobs for young Iranians while contributing to the country’s GDP. The startup ecosystem’s noteworthy growth rate, along with the government support, has encouraged private businesses to invest in the sector as well.
Loans regularly offered to startups and tech firms constitute a major example of government support for the sector. Iranian knowledge-based companies and tech firms received 137.6 trillion rials ($849.3 million) in loans during the last Iranian year (ended March 19, 2020), the Central Bank of Iran said.



CBI Facilities

According to a recent CBI report, during the year, a total of 1,108 tech units applied for loans that averaged 124.2 billion rials ($766,600). The figures show a 74.5% rise compared to the amount of loans paid in 2018-19.
CBI Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati told reporters that the bank is willing to continue its allocation of financial facilities to help the tech ecosystem flourish, Mehr News Agency reported.
In early April, Hemmati said the bank was mulling over starting collaboration with the state-backed Iran National Innovation Fund to establish support centers in all provinces to ease startups’ access to legal and financial support.
Besides the provincial funding centers, plans are under consideration to set up offices for offering specialized services to firms active in the fields of nanotechnology, social innovative services and the internet of things, he added.
The government is also expanding resources for information and communication technology companies.



ICT firms

Last week, ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi told the media that following negotiations with the Vice Presidential Office for Science and Technology, ICT firms can receive monetary aid from the National Development Fund of Iran.
“The facilities will be provided to ICT companies certified by the Industries Ministry and registered as knowledge-based,” Jahromi said.
To apply for loans, the firms can directly refer to NDFI or the website
The ICT tech firms were earlier cheered up by the announcement of the government-affiliated Information and Communication Technologies Guild Organization that it plans to pay them loans to the tune of 20 billion rials ($123,000).
The move was aimed at protecting their businesses from the loss caused by the spread of COVID-19 in the country, which has distorted the tech ecosystem’s prospects. The loans are to be financed by ICT Ministry’s Information Technology Organization.
In an online meeting, the heads of commissions at ICT Guild Organization decided to offer loans worth 5-20 billion rials ($30,000-123,000) to eligible ICT firms.
The financial assistance is expected to help revive knowledge-based firms that have slumped due to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
By May 5, the novel coronavirus has taken the lives of 6,156 people out of a total of 96,448 infected people. 
According to Iran’s Health Ministry, 77,350 patients have so far recovered from the disease.


More Money Injection

The Iran National Innovation Fund has invested 140 billion rials ($864,000) in nanotechnology firms to boost the domestic production of health protective items used for shielding against the novel coronavirus.
According to the fund’s website, Iran Nanotechnology Innovation Council has helped INIF sign contracts with eligible knowledge-based companies.
Mohammad Ali Bahreini, the head of Nano-Fund Department at the council, said the contracts are geared toward the production of N95 and N99 facemasks needed by the medical staff to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. 
“The money is also to be spent on upgrading machinery, especially electrospinning machines, used in the production of masks,” he added.
Electrospinning is a fiber production method that uses electric force to draw charged threads of polymer solutions or polymer melts up to fiber diameters to the tune of some hundred nanometers. 
The method has the potential to produce seamless non-woven items by integrating advanced manufacturing with fiber electrospinning. This would introduce multi-functionality (flame, chemical, environmental protection) by blending fibers into electrospin-laced layers in combination with polymer coatings. 
Besides the investment, INIF announced in mid-March plans to pay 45 trillion rials ($277.7 million) in loans to knowledge-based companies and tech firms to boost their operations.
According to INIF chief Ali Vahdat, the move is aimed at increasing the production of health-protective items needed during the pandemic, including N95 respirator and surgical masks, hand sanitizers, alcohol-based disinfectants, medical air disinfectant machines, antibacterial fabrics and coveralls for hospital use, as well as test kits and simulators.
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 said there are over 400 knowledge-based firms currently working on anti-coronavirus products, some of whose field of activity had nothing to do with the disease earlier. 
“Their rapid business adjustment to the ongoing issues in the country is praiseworthy,” he said.

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