A glance at the increasing growth of Iran’s innovation ecosystem
According to the latest UNESCO report, a review of the science, technology, and innovation in Iran shows a significant leap in Iranian knowledge-based and creative companies in the last five years.
The Science Report in 2021, published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in June of this year, deals specifically with the situation of science, technology, and innovation in Iran and cites the country’s progress and growth in terms of ecological indices of innovation and technology such as knowledge-based companies, R&D activities and expansion of innovation centers. The followings are some indicators of innovation ecosystem development in Iran and the report’s suggestions for overcoming the challenges of this ecosystem.
From production boom to export of Iranian-made products
According to the report, the development of accelerators and innovation and growth centers has led to a rapid increase in the number of knowledge-based and innovative companies in the past five years in Iran. The report cites the increase in exports by knowledge-based companies during the sanctions as proof of the development of these firms in Iran. In addition, various reforms and legislation, especially in the last five years, have removed the barriers to competition in the Iranian market. This has significantly improved the financing of innovation. As a result, in the last five years, innovation in Iran has developed rapidly. Last year alone, 49 accelerators and 113 innovation centers provided services to innovative businesses and startups with the participation of the private sector.
Iran’s capability in biotechnology
The report also refers to the advances and high capabilities of Iran’s bio- and pharmaceutical technologies as 95% of the drugs used and two-thirds of the effective drug substances in Iran are produced domestically. The report also mentions the export of Iranian-made biopharmaceuticals to the European and specifically German markets. Efforts to promote innovation in the biotechnology sector by launching specialized accelerators such as Persis Gene, established by the Cinnagen Knowledge-Based Company (https://www.cinnagen.com/), have also been described and reviewed.
Leap in the growth of knowledge-based and creative companies
Until March 20, 2014, the number of approved knowledge-based companies was 55, which increased to 2,275 by March 20, 2016, and 2016. This number reached 2,960 by March 20, 2017. According to the latest reports, there are 6,422 knowledge-based companies and 1,400 creative companies operating in Iran.
The report further refers to supporting knowledge-based and creative companies, producing advanced equipment and supplies for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of Covid-19 shortly after the onset of the pandemic in Iran, describing those efforts as a positive and practical experience.
The country’s rank in the Global Innovation Index (GII), which reflects the overall state of innovation, including inputs and outputs of innovation, has steadily improved between 2015 and 2021 from 106 to 60. During this period, Iranians’ number of patents registered with the National Bureau of Intellectual Property and reputable international organizations has continued to increase.
(Download the GII/2021 report at https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo_pub_gii_2021/ir.pdf)
The rise in the number of Iranians returning home
The program aimed at enabling the return of Iranian specialists from abroad led to the employment of many people in startups (354 people) in 2018 and the establishment of creative companies including 100 startups with more than 3000 personnel in 2018. These are among other policies of Iran’s vice president for science and technology, referred to in the UNESCO report.
Developing the innovation ecosystem in Iran with the support of knowledge-based companies and startups in advanced technologies focusing on science and technology has been described as a critical policy for developing science, technology, and innovation in recent years. Campus Technology Park, Liberty Innovation Factories, and Hawaii have been instrumental in successfully implementing this approach.
Pardis Technology Park, Azadi, and Highway Innovation Factories have been instrumental in successfully implementing this approach.
Creating innovation zones
The Azadi Innovation Factory alone has created 3,500 jobs for university graduates and young entrepreneurs and is developing innovation alongside the 6,000-strong workforce of 500 companies stationed in the Pardis Technology Park.
Sharif Innovation Zone is another example of implementing an innovation ecosystem support approach that hosts more than 500 startups.
Iran’s good situation in gender equality of higher education students, 46.6% of whom are women, has been described as another strength of Iran in science, technology, and innovation.
The development of the digital economy with the emergence and rapid growth of companies such as Snapp, Tapsi, Aparat, Digikala, Divar, and Cafe Bazaar and various government support, especially the digital economy headquarters of the vice president for science and technology of digital technologies, is considered a significant change in technology and innovation in Iran. Furthermore, the steady growth of Iranian scientific productions in the last decade, in areas such as nanotechnology and biotechnology and the adequate support of the country’s top scientists in the framework of the Leaders Federation Program and paving the way for the return of at least 1400 Iranian experts and supporting registration of Iranian scientists’ patents in international organizations are all examples of the government’s active support in this regard.
Implementing the resistance economy policies has been described as a critical mechanism for overcoming the challenges posed by oppressive US sanctions and enhancing technological and productive capabilities to reduce Iran’s dependence on imports of technologies and industrial products.
The report points to the need to pay serious attention to the development of exports with the capability created in knowledge-based companies, creative companies, and startups, which the government has seriously considered in recent years. The report also makes other important proposals including paying more attention to market demand and skills in higher education in Iran to increase the employment rate of university graduates, raise the funding for research and development activities by the business sector of public and private companies, increase the share of renewables in the country’s energy basket and overcome environmental challenges such as air pollution with scientific and technological solutions. These suggestions aim to improve the state of science, technology, and innovation in Iran.
Scientific and technological parks
Iran’s rank in the global innovation index has increased from 104 in 2013 to 60th in 2020. The number of technology units last year reached 7953 units, and the revenues by these companies reached more than 18 thousand billion tomans.
The influential role of creative companies in developing entrepreneurship and economic employment has caused the number of these companies to increase from 1100 in 2020 to 1442 companies until today. In addition, by laying the groundwork for cooperation with 20 government agencies, the vice president for science and technology has paved the way for the provision of 49 services by these companies. According to the Global GII report in recent years, Iran’s growing trend in creativity and innovation reflects the country’s valuable move towards progress.
The remarkable growth of Iran’s position in reports about global innovation indicators in recent years shows this field is going in the right direction with the support of the vice president for science and technology. In the beginning, Iran ranked 120 globally, and today it ranks 60.
Iranian innovation centers in the world and their information
Iran has set up innovation and technology houses called IHIT in different countries to develop trade and technological relations.
The activity of this center in Iran in the field of a permanent international exhibition of products and services of knowledge-based companies is about creativity and innovation. The benefits of these centers include identifying opportunities for scientific, technological, and industrial cooperation and identifying export opportunities, private and shared workspaces, meeting halls and ceremonial halls, and permanent exhibitions of products and services.
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
This Damascus-based innovation house operates in exporting products and services of knowledge-based, creative and technological companies and institutions. The services of this innovation house include:
Moscow, Russian Federation
Iran Innovation House, based in Russia, is active in exporting products and services produced by knowledge-based companies and institutions. The services of Iran Innovation House include:
Guangzhou and Shanghai, China
The scope of activities and services provided by the Innovation House in China is similar to those of previous centers such as Russia and Syria. Its services include:
Export development of products and services of knowledge-based companies, providing export instructions for the Center for International Interaction of Science and Technology, holding the National Pavilion of the Islamic Republic of Iran in prestigious exhibitions and similar cases with other centers are also among the services provided by this center.
Iran opens the sixth Innovation and Technology House in Istanbul in March 2022, which will play a significant role in trade and technology exchange between the two countries, given the extensive relations between Iran and Turkey.
Accelerators and startups
The arrival of startups in Iran began in the early 2000s. In 2006 and 2008, creating startups and their growth began, and in the years 2013 to 2017, the number of startups grew significantly. In addition, the development of startup support institutions in recent years has led to a five-fold increase in the number of accelerators and a 32-fold increase in the number of startups.