As the eleventh administration (the administration of Hassan Rouhani during his first tenure as Iranian President) began its work in 2013, Sorena Sattari was designated as the vice president for science and technology. After four years when Rouhani was re-elected as president, Sattari was reinstated in his position for another four-year term.
Now, with less than a year left until the twelfth administration winds up it work, Sattari says he would do whatever it takes during the remaining time to further develop and promote knowledge-based companies because most people are familiar with “knowledge-based economy”, which is a great achievement.
In an interview with the Iran newspaper, he has weighed in on a whole range of scientific developments, from startups entering the stock market to the time when a vaccine would be produced for coronavirus.
These days the issue of startups and knowledge-based firms entering the stock market is a hot issue, and there are both proponents and opponents of why these companies should enter the stock market.
First of all, bear in mind that the way knowledge-based companies develop is different from that of startups. All across the world, startups go public for survival. To put it simply, startups are formed in the basements of houses and from within a family group, and the initial budget could be provided by the same families. However, the development of startups finally ends up in the stock exchange. This is something that most successful startups around the world such as Amazon, Uber, etc. have done.
Around four years ago, this trend got underway. The first and largest startup that entered the stock market was the “Up” company whose shares have been valued at Rls. 200 trillion.
There are 35 knowledge-based companies and startups are listed on the stock exchange and valued at Rls. 1,800 trillion. We forecast there will be more than 70 such companies by the time the current administration’s tenure comes to an end. Of course, we are encouraging firms to enter the stock exchange.
At the moment, how is the situation of the ecosystem and biome for startups in the country? Have they grown quantity-wise or quality-wise?
We have the most unique startup biome in the region. Many startups operating in the information and communications technology (ICT) area are unique in the region. When we talk about FinTechs, I should say that even in our neighbouring country Turkey, there are no such companies with which to compare ours. Many of our startups have the upper hand, too, when it comes to online sales. Startups working in the biotech area are among technological topics that we, unfortunately, do talk about very much. We even didn’t talk about them in this interview.
In this field, we have the biggest startups in the region. We also have the upper hand in many other areas, including stem cells and aerospace. We are even superior when it comes to presenting articles. If we look the papers released in 2019, we can see that our ranking improved one step to secure the 15th standing in the world. Moreover, our distance with our rivals in the region such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, etc., is increasing considerably.
We rank among the top ten countries in many engineering disciplines. For instance, we have secured the 6th ranking in mathematics, 6th in civil engineering and 6th in biotechnology. However, we are behind in some other areas such as humanities, art and linguistics. And the reason is that professors of those major do not present articles in English. So, when we calculate our overall standing, we have the 15th ranking in the world. Anyway, we have the largest startups in the region, but unfortunately, what keeps startups from developing in the country is a lack of proper environment for these businesses.
In what areas related to startups and knowledge-based firms have you exactly made the most investments in recent years?
Specifically speaking, the Science and Technology Department of the Presidential Office has made direct investment in the biotechnology sector, and given the recent developments in the coronavirus domain, I think the whole world has learned that biotechnology is not only a science. It is a matter of security and economy. This is the area in which we made lots of investment over the past years, and I’m happy to have taken this sector seriously because I can say with certainty that after the coronavirus outbreak, most domestic needs from diagnosis kits to hospital equipment will be met domestically.
Another program that we’ve been following seriously is the issue of food security on which we have been focusing for almost a year now. I think this is a very important topic for the country’s future, too.
In what areas are knowledge-based companies producing products mostly? Are there any statistics available regarding the sales of knowledge-based products in the country?
Most of our sales are related to biotech companies, but ICT tops the list in terms of job creation. Overall, sales of knowledge-based firms amounted to Rls. 1,200 trillion last year.