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How Will Startups Transform the Economy
A shortcut to sustainable development
A shortcut to sustainable development
Parviz Karami, advisor to the vice president for science and technology affairs
What do we talk about when we talk about startups? Are we talking about a semi-serious and semi-fantasy and largely dramatic activity or are we talking about the most important shortcuts to reach “sustainable development”. More explicitly, are startups actually as important as presented by the media and authorities or are they an eloquent but teasing term that will be forgotten some time later and will be eliminated from our verbal culture?
I must point out some issues to give a real answer to this question and have a clear image of today’s condition of our country in the field of science and technology. First one all, no one, even the sworn enemies of Iran, can deny the development of universities and science and technology in Iran after the Islamic Revolution. Our scientific-academic and technological status is not comparable to 40 years ago. Today, we have great ranks in the world in terms of education of individuals and the production of science and research activity. Sometimes the obstinate media presents false news to change the actual situation of Iran. They talk about the inefficiency of our universities and introduce our higher education development unqualified. In order to realize how far is the mentioned news from reality, you just need to take a look at the value and position of young Iranian graduates in international societies.
Graduates of Sharif, Tehran, Science and Industry, Amir Kabir, Science and Research, Zajan, Esfahan, and tens of other universities are still prioritized in emigration offices of Europe, America, and Canada. If our universities were inefficient, Europe and Canada would not be in desperate need of attracting Iranian graduates. The actual meaning of scientific-academic development is realized when we compare today’s numbers with numbers from 40 years ago. The difference between these two numbers is so high that one might think that they are not comparable. When we talk about university development, we do not mean the frequency of classes, professors, offices, and students.
We can reach an abundance of experts, elites, and specialists by abundance of classes, professors, and offices. We must never forget that we imported physicians from India, engineers from Korea, and factory makers from Russia due to the severe lack of experts in the country. Today, we export a part of our academic graduates, sometimes because of orders and sometimes because of our own willingness.
Second of all, let me tell you an old wit. A passenger saw that a worker is digging the ground with great difficulty, and a second worker fills the hole immediately. He asked: what is this useless work? They said: we were three, one digs a hole, another plants a pipe, and the other one fills the hole. Today, the one who plants the pipes has not come to work, but we still do our job. The ratio of science production and technology advancement to academic centers is the same as the ratio of workers in the story. If we did not move toward science production, the establishment of technology parks and innovation centers and investment in research centers, there would be no fruitful academic development. Today, R&D centers and accelerators have become more official and have been placed on the right path by recognizing the actual needs and necessities of the country and developing the industry.
Neither me not any of the authorities or fair observers claim that we have overcome all problems in the field of technology development and science production and have reached our desired peaks. There is still a long way to go. Nevertheless, our talented youth and professors have had achievements in various fields, for which we are proud of. International statistics is a great tool to understand the scientific-technological condition of our country. In addition, both friends and enemies know that “we can achieve whatever we want”. A reason for the aggression of the United States toward Iran is the fact that Iranians have reached extraordinary abilities in the nuclear field. Nevertheless, our scientific abilities are not limited to nuclear, nano, bio, or space fields. In fact, we have entered all fields that their necessity has been fully understood. Therefore, we built Rome in one night and reached remarkable achievements. I also want to remind the scientific advancement of Iran in military and defense affairs.
Third of all, we must consider innovation and creativity in illustration of the scientific and technology condition of Iran. Unfortunately, this innovation and creativity have not entered some areas due to some reasons, which might be due to bureaucratic obstacles and some misconceptions and cultural beliefs. For example, a misbelief is that we have witnessed no extraordinary innovation or creativity in the automotive field. Realistically speaking, not only we have not improved in some industries, but also we have experienced downgrading in some areas. However, we have compensated for this shortage in some other areas and have wowed our enemies. Achieving such great progress in the field of radar or UAV, or missile defense would not be possible without the innovation, creativity, and trust in the committed youth of the country.
Without a doubt, any Iranian would be happy and proud to know that the youth of the country have downed the American aircraft with an Iranian missile, which was an Iranian ground-to-air missile. While progress, innovation and creativity show themselves in the military and defense industry these days, they are not limited to these fields. If we look at the general form of science and technology of the country from a high distance, we can realize that a scientific movement has been initiated and the youth of the country follow up their work with vitality. Some years ago, one of the thinkers of the country said: “we are doomed to improve”. His words are so notable. He was right. A country with this level of valuable assets has no choice but to improve. However, this capital is nothing but creative human resources and committed and motivated graduates. If you put pressure on a spring for a long time, the spring has no choice but to remove the annoying forces and come back to its normal state. You creative youth and scientists are that spring that has removed the barriers on its path. Therefore, they have no other choice but to make progress. Again, I urge you to take a few steps back and see the overall image of today’s Iran and compare it with some years ago. In the field of telecommunications, transportation, aerospace, architecture and urbanization, energy, resource management, modern agriculture, medicine and health, in pure science and even in the humanities and the arts, we have considerably improved, compared to the past. What should we call this “change from importing Pakistani physicians to the entrance of foreigners to receive healthcare in Iran” other than progress?
In the past, urban transportation was an issue in Iran, especially in Tehran and large cities. Today, smart phones are used in this field, which has made urban transportation a profitable business. Did you know that the use of mobile capacity has led to the formation of several occupations? I have no time to present examples, but I urge you to study various fields and see that many problems have been solved and progress has been made in many areas without the government money. Could we improve our production and services and reach today’s acceptable level without startups? Startups bring cultural and social benefits and help decrease the involvement of the government. In addition, they enhance the foundations of religious democracy through participation of young girls and boys in social areas. If we want to bring the youth to the field and give them responsibilities, they only solution is laying the proper foundation for startups and supporting them from a distance.
The innovation and technology ecosystem is being developed in Iran and the region and at the international level. We can enter the global fields by establishing technology ecosystems inside the country and establish regional and global ecosystem by other countries. Some ecosystems have been created, which seem to improve better than the expected level. For example, Iran, India and China can use these startups to create a new silk road in Chabahar ports and make a link between west and east. These links can be associated with scientific and economic benefit. Nevertheless, do not doubt that they are not free of political and cultural benefits. Experts have regarded the imminent growth and development of economic ecosystems - scientific – technology as the third wave and believe that we can enter the new world and a new season of authority and dignity by entering the new stage.