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News > One billion IRT prize against the lie on emigration of elites/ flourishing of startups is the best method to return elites to the country

The vice president for science and technology affairs stated on an interview with Khorasan:

One billion IRT prize against the lie on emigration of elites/ flourishing of startups is the best method to return elites to the country

One billion IRT prize against the lie on emigration of elites/ flourishing of startups is the best method to return elites to the country


The vice president for science and technology affairs stated on an interview: the best infrastructure for return of elites to the country is formation of startups and knowledge-based businesses.

According to the public relations and information center of the Vice-Presidency for science and technology affairs, the details of the interview of Khorasan newspaper with Sorena Sattari are presented, as follows:

Khorasan: we were unable to interview Mr. Sattari only through significant follow-ups. He is very preoccupied with provincial travels and various meetings and conferences. After several months of waiting, we set our interview with Dr. Sattari on May 17th 2018, which was the first day of Ramadan. When you enter the room of the son of Martyr Sattari (former commander of air forces of Iran), it is no surprise to encounter several airplane models, all of which have been created by his own hands. He declares that he has made 200 models and received the number one prize for designing a military aircraft from the supreme leader on 1997. Sattari is a well-known government member due to mostly being interacting with students, elites, and activists of knowledge-based companies and startups. His way of talk is also recognized today. In the past five years, he has constantly criticized oil-based economy, announcing that the only survival method is formation of a knowledge-based economy and environment. He has repeated these issues so many times that, according to himself, those who mocked him at the beginning of his journey are now among their supporters. In this one-hour interview with the vice president for science and technology affairs, we aimed to evaluate the causes of lack of attention to domestic knowledge-based products (on the occasion of the slogan of this year), marketing process for knowledge-based companies, new business problems and startups, evaluation of the condition of elites and causes of strange statistics on brain drain.

As the first question, let’s start with naming the year of 2018. This year is called the year of support of domestic products by the supreme leader, when we have witnessed indifference to domestic production for many years now. Naturally, knowledge-based product manufacturers are no different. How do you analyze this situation? What is the role of the vice presidency in realizing this goal?

The Economy of Iran has always been based on oil. This soil-based economy has brought a culture with itself. It is like a person who lives with his father’s money and has made no efforts in this regard. This is a challenge for all oil-based economies. In import, networks have been traditionally formed in the country for many years, which are linked to the outside of the country. I assure you that nothing will change until the proper ecosystem is not formed in the country.

However, development of knowledge-based companies and growth of startups have led to the formation of a new ecosystem in the business and occupation environment of the country. In addition, we have put the technology attachment for large contracts on the agenda of the country despite the small possibility of their implementation. The main cause of this issue is the current networking in the country. Today, the world has focused on the standards. When you consider the oil industry, your products must have the American Petroleum Institute (API) license. This standard does not easily give the oil industry to companies outside of it. Right now, we are negotiating with the standard and have unveiled 50 licenses and have solved a part of standard problems. These measures are being taken to distance ourselves from import space and take steps toward empowering domestic production.

Two years ago, the government issued a bill on the necessity of creating the market for knowledge-based companies to the government organizations. How these organizations have cooperated with the implementation of the bill?

In this regard, agreements have been signed with some of the executive organizations, including the ministry of agriculture, ministry of health, ministry of industry and ministry of oil. For instance, the ministry of oil has acted well in its product group. In addition, we have witnessed promising acts in the area of health and relevant equipment. In the biotechnology medicine field, we have witnessed great improvements. In addition, we have focused on new cultivation methods in the field of agriculture in order to determine which medicinal plant or product requires less water.

Do you think the measures taken in this regard have been inadequate?

I cannot say that we have reached an ideal point, but it was not that bad. In addition, not all of this market is handled by the government. In fact, the government market is an aid for knowledge-based companies to attain a part of the market and stand on their own feet. Last year, these companies sold about 60 thousand billion IRT, which is more than double compared to 2016, and a significant improve in the GDP of the country. The same growth has been anticipated for this year.

How are we doing in the export section?

Export is a significantly important issue. In general, there is a great difference between the export of knowledge-based products and traditional export that has been going on in the country. A company that wants to export its knowledge-based products must have the CE standard. These are a new culture for business and export. Last year, we reached the value of 450 million dollars in export of knowledge-based companies, which is a considerable amount. We hope that this value reaches one billion dollars this year. Despite the problems observed for export of knowledge-based products in terms of international conditions, we have taken proper steps in this regard.

Dr. Sattari, we have a law in the country that seems to be related to more than 20 years ago, which the maximum use of domestic power and has been ignored by industry section, executive organizations and all those who are subject to this law for many years. What do you think about that?

You see, we deal with phenomenon that are domesticized. Out industry is not an industry but a factory. When we decided to have metal industry, we brought a foreigner to design it for me and provide us with the necessary machineries. Now, we expect the domestic section to work with this industry. We need to design new concepts if our goal is to exit this space. We will not be successful expect for when we design our own machineries and systems. Regulation of any kind of law in this regard would be fruitless if we want to deal with the same system and infrastructure, which is the result of import to the country. When our car industry has been formed based on the same principle, whatever we do, we need to make contracts with foreigners to produce new cars. However, this does not occur in knowledge-based field. In this ecosystem, every person is looking for solving problems through innovation. This ecosystem is not competing with the traditional section. Therefore, we witness conflict between these two sections today. There is quarrels between the traditional system and startups on active technology. The traditional systems are fighting with the industrial systems to make a new system. The implementation of the law on maximum use of domestic power is monitored in large contracts. Nevertheless, does the private sector really adhere to these laws? Can we constantly monitor them and see how much of the domestic power is applied? We cannot say that this law has failed. It has been performed in many cases. However, we cannot force its implementation.

You mentioned the low success in the implementation of attachment technology. Can you elaborate on that?

It has been less than a year that the attachment technology of large contracts has become mandatory. Since the last year, we have become the member of the economy council. Today, technology attachment is a necessity in large contracts. However, when it comes to the implementation stage, we see that it was just on the paper and many obstacles are formed when we try to adhere to these laws. We try our best to do this but we cannot be successful until the cultural and organizational base of this issue is reformed.

Has there been a statistic on the level of adhering to this law by large companies in the last year?

No, we do not have such statistics since this issue has been started for over a year now and the majority of large contracts has been in the areas of power, oil and road ministries, especially in the area of rails and wagon-making. Therefore, we lack accurate statistics on how large contracts adhere to technology attachment.

Do you think companies adhere to this law?

On paper yes. But in practice we see their resistance. I still have detected no reports in this area but we must constantly monitor it. In the past years, a discourse has been formed on startups and a new type of business in the country. In this regard, we have witnessed great progress, which has led to the change of the business environment. However, some activists of the field have complaints about the type of support and discriminations observed in the processes. Sometimes, these sponsorships are only provided for large startups, which are not a startup and has turned into a large company. Specifically, there have been complaints about the support that is provided only for large companies by the Vice-Presidency and less attention has been paid to small and newly emerged companies. How does the Vice-Presidency support these companies and startups that has raised so much criticism?

Today, we have three thousands and 500 knowledge-based companies, 70% of which are newly established. However, the law to support knowledge-based companies is the support law of companies that have a technology and work in the ICT area. The majority of active companies in this field are creative and active in the service area. We cannot confirmed their knowledge-based nature until they exhibit a technology. Nevertheless, large companies are successful in doing so. For instance, some companies have been established in the ICT area that are active in urban transportation. Their software is locally manufactured. They have extraordinary artificial intelligence. All of these confirm the knowledge-based nature of an enterprise. Currently, we provide about 160 services, some of which have been turned into creative companies. For instance, we have been able to develop accelerators to support creative companies and provide exemption from mandatory military services. Since this year, we have aimed to develop creative companies so that a part of these enterprises could be supported outside the knowledge-based law.

However, I should say that innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem cannot be formed by government money. In fact, government money destroys such ecosystems. The exact successful companies that you talked about received no government loan, which is very important. Nevertheless, we need to stand with startups. I personally get furious when I see that the startups are being closed down. Today we can talk with all sections of the country, which was not possible on the first day. Whenever we talked about this topic with ministers of the country, they would not fully grasp the idea. However, today they completely understand and we have realized that lack of support of these companies will lead to the entrance of the foreign party. We did not understand this a few years back. In terms of domestic products, we see that low-quality Chinese products are easily imported to Iran but domestic products must obtained standards from the ministries of health and environment. This business environment is prepared for foreign companies and is widely inefficient for domestic enterprises.

In the area of eliminating ensurance and tax problems of startups, we have received promising statements. However, no successful act has been performed in this regard. When do you think these obstacles will be eliminated?

I do not agree with lack of solving of tax exemption problems since we have good cooperation with the tax office and tax exemption has been applied for knowledge-based companies based on laws. In this respect, 2400 knowledge-based companies have benefited from tax exemption. Nevertheless, no such acts have been performed in the area of creative companies.

The main issue is here. These are creative companies and lack efficient economic power and have not yet reached wealth creation. How do we expect them to pay taxes?

This is the business environment we are looking for. However, we still have problems in the insurance area. Currently, we have had meetings with Dr. Rabiei, minister of labor, and some facilities have been provided in this field. Nevertheless, it is far from what we have in mind. Today, one of the major issues of knowledge-based companies is the plurality of insurance organization directives. In my opinion, this will not be solved unless these directives are taken from insurance experts and managers. We cannot change the regulations with directives every day. This is one of the problems of the business area that is on our agenda this year.

You are also the president of the national elites foundation. In a meeting between members of the elites foundations and the supreme leader three years ago, our leader criticized some of the measures taken by the foundation, including providing facilities to universities, and demanded the correction of these actions. Are they really corrected now?  

Yes, some of them are modified since we have a meeting with the supreme leader and present our annual report in this meeting. However, now that we are talking about elites, it is worth mentioning that we have expressed since the beginning that the asset of knowledge-based companies is human resources and not just any human resources. In fact, these businesses demand suffered and thoughtful human resources. They should not come from wealthy families. However, achieving this goal requires changes in our education system. We need to accept that we are faced with top talents and not elites. If a person thinks that he/she must receive a share or position in the country because of an invention or a reward, they cannot be a part of the foundation. They must accept that it is in fact the country that has demands from them. All over the world, even in America, you will receive grants if you have good grades. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the American government owes you something. Only having expertise in field does not mean asking a high-ranking position from the government. Acting as if the government owes you is one of our major problems. The late Ms. Mirzakhani was in my university once. When living in Iran, she was famous for having two global gold medals for two Olympiads. However, she never called her elite. We learned elite ethics from her. She never sought gratitude from the government. In fact, she said that she owes her country. It is this elite behavior that can lead to our progress. If a person says I am an elite, should we provide more facilities for them? Or give them more money? The national elites foundation is not a welfare complex. It must be a place for training our children to have significant impacts on their society.

Regardless of material terms, we need to accept that elites require support. They require more facilities to grow. According to the Code of Ethics for Elites, which was approved in the ninth edition, the doors of all research centers were supposed to be opened to the elites so that their research facilities could be exploited by these individuals. However, most of elites claim that no such facilities have been provided for them. Why do we have these problems and research centers withhold these facilities? However, we have no law in this area but even if there were, do you think that they were executable? The structures of our research centers are not in a way that an elite could enter them or work in them. The structure of our research centers have been in a way that a ministry would establish a research center to solve its problems. But what happened? We recruited researchers to search for us, and this has been the biggest mistake of our government research centers. They recruited faculty members, who do what they do in the universities and do not care about solving the problems of the industry. Now tell me, even if the doors of all of these research institutes are open, do those who work in these places offer help? Do they help or cause problems for the elites? If they could help them, they would have already recruited the elites. So, why are our children leaving the country?

Bring an elite into the government system and give them governmental salary. Nothing good would come from him. He might be a good manager in the future, but he will not progress in his own expertise. Whenever I travel to provinces, everyone demand financial support. That is where I get angry. Everyone think that we have oil resources in our hands and can solve their problems. In fact, they cannot understand that the problems of provinces can be solved with their mind and not the government money. I regret to see governors who get excited about finding a chalk or iron mine but is indifferent toward the leaving of human resources from their provinces. They do not know that the actual power is in having human resources, which can transform a province, and not mineral mines. They do not know that private investors must come to their provinces to create business environments. Government money kills the elites. We must understand that we betray our children by recruiting them in government organizations. If the elites think that they can improve by being recruited by the government, they are wrong. One of the important measures taken by the national elites foundation is bringing back the elites who leave in other countries. Evaluation of statistics on the number of returned elites to the country shows that the number of people who have come back is not significant, compared to those living in other countries.

We have entered this area for two years now in order to return elites to the country. However, before we enter this issue, let’s talk about the bizarre exaggerations on the statistics of exit of elites. These statistics have been institutionalized in the system so much that no one believes us when we say they are false. For many years, it is claimed that statistics have been published by the international monetary fund with the title of exit of 180 thousand elites from Iran. Meanwhile, no such statistics actually exist and it is not clear where is its reference. Based on the global scales, the number of Iranian people in foreign countries is three times below the mean of the world, meaning that three percent out of our four million and 700 thousand students must be outside Iran. Meanwhile, this amount is only one percent, meaning that only 48-50 thousand students are studying abroad, which is actually not a good figure. 

I am not denying brain drain in Iran. We all have accepted it as a current phenomenon. However, the fact that we consider it a concerning event can be true from one aspect and false from other side. It is not a concerning issue since our range is significantly lower than the global mean. Nevertheless, it could be slightly concerning since we are losing efficient human resources. Another concern is that there is a high level of possibility of permanent residence of these individuals in the United States and more importantly, nothing is being done to reverse it.

Meanwhile, the destinies our students select are good destinies and our talents often come from universities from Europe, America, and Australia. In fact, the largest colony of Iranian students is in America with an approximately 12 thousand members. In terms of the number of students in the United States, we have been ranked within the range of 11-16 during these years. However, we were ranked first during the revolution. So, how cannot that range be regarded as brain drain but the current low number of students outside the country is a concerning issue and total brain drain. Basically, these things were not considered at that time since they could fund students easily and it was a purposeful stream.

However, I prefer to work on the recruitment policies rather than following up the funding policies. Funding means financial support of an individual to be able to study abroad for four-five years with no clear future. In addition, we are the government and experiences have shown that we lack the ability to select proper individuals. There is evidence on previous funding methods of the government. However, we currently have students studying abroad with a clear scientific level. Those are the people we need to work on. Many of advanced countries do not fund their students. For instance, China has 350 students in America, which is 30 times more than the number of Iranian students in this country. However, they invest in returning policies. We have followed up these policies as well during the past two years and have achieved promising results. Instead of funding a person with several billion IRT without being ensured of his returning, we have return that individual with one tenths of that amount of money. Every year, we have about 800 PhD graduates in the fields of engineering and basic sciences in the United States, which has spent three billion IRT for their PhD course. It is a blessing to be able to return 500-1000 elites and top talents to the country.

Have we reached this figure yet?

We currently have been able to return 400 individuals per year and we have aimed for higher number of graduates in the next year. The best infrastructure for returning elites to the country is startups. We always thought that these people are willing to be recruited by universities. But, now we see that they are more interested in working in startups.

You mentioned that the statistics on the annual exit of elites, that shows 180-300 thousands of individuals and is attributed to the global bank by some people, is a lie and exaggeration. What is the actual statists in this regard?

I accentuate that the statistics of the global bank is always correct and accurate. However, such statistics have never been published. Immigration statistics are published on the websites of immigration offices of America, Canada, and Australia in details and the United Nations also publishes immigration statistics every year.

Don’t you think that one of the causes of these false reports is incompetency of the elites foundation in presenting accurate statistics?

One of our major problems is lack of announcement of the immigration statistics by the office of immigration. Migration statistics are among the most basic statistics that a country needs to have. It means that we need to know the emigration rate. unfortunately, the emigration office lacks these statistics. However, we have had meetings with them to estimate and publish these data with their help. In addition, emigration statistics are published by the United Nations every year. Nevertheless, the more accurate statistics are published by the CIA fact book. Therefore, our pure immigration rate has never been above 30-35 thousand individuals in a year.

Almost every two years, we prepare statistics on the elites covered by the foundation. Currently, the census for the next two years has begun. Despite several requests by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, these statistics are not presented. We have no problem with that. I even told the secretary of the council that these statistics are not confidential. I hope that we are able to publish the next round of statistics in this regard. In addition, you can publish the statistics provided by an authoritative international publication. Nevertheless, statistics attributed to the international monetary fund are nothing but a lie. We even offered a prize of 100 million IRT for anyone who can bring us this report and prove that they are accurate and announced by the international monetary fund.

It is a considerable figure. I need to investigate it further.

Yes of course. Do that. I am even willing to increase the prize to one billion IRT for anyone who is able to bring a copy of the report in 2009.

I remember that at the end of the 11th government, you expressed your hope for not being a part of the government. Why did you wish that? Was it fatigue of work or other factors were involved?

I don’t know if I said this before or after the election. Over the years, we have faced many challenges. Nevertheless, I remained as the vice president and I am happy that despite all the rumors and proposals, I remained in my position with no controversies. Because I believe that we are creating an stream that will save the country. Many of those who mocked me in the beginning of the journey are now its supporters. The government has also concluded that if there is going to be something new happening, it will happen with knowledge-based economy. Otherwise, we have constructed many metal, cement and petrochemical factories, which were at their own time but cannot be evolved any more than this. Over the past years, we have neglected human resources. If we comprehend its proper capacity, there will be no need for elites foundation. Do America and Europe have elites foundation? When you have a society that appreciates the elites and support them and the government focuses on the commercialization of ideas and inventions, and there is education mixed with economy, there will be no need for an elites foundation. The foundation is where this idea is created to change the society. I hope that I could continue my activities until the determined time. Otherwise, I would teach in universities.

Some members of the government have a strong presence in social networks and interact with their audiences? Despite the large audience you encounter, including elites, knowledge-based companies, and startups, how is that you don’t use the social media?

It may be possible that most of my colleagues use the social media. However, I personally do not believe in this method because I think that if there is a problem, it should be solved face to face.


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