By Mehdi Garshasbi

Iran among upper-middle countries in readiness for frontier technologies

August 30, 2021 - 18:58

TEHRAN - The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Technology and Innovation Report 2021 has placed Iran among upper-middle countries in terms of readiness for frontier technologies.

The index yielded results for 158 countries with the United States, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom receiving the highest scores on a scale of 0 to 1. Based on their rankings, countries are placed within one of four 25-percentile score groups: low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high values of the index.

The report has put Iran in the 71st position with a total score of 0.46, higher than Qatar, Oman, and Morocco.

Iran was also placed 82 in ICT, 74 in skills, 37 in R&D, 130 in industry, and 53 in finance sectors, according to Iran National Inventions Team.

Only a few countries currently create frontier technologies, but all countries need to prepare for them. To assess national capabilities to equitably use, adopt and adapt these technologies this report has developed a ‘readiness index’. The index comprises five building blocks: ICT deployment, skills, R&D activity, industry activity, and access to finance, according to the report.

Human development over the past two decades has been accompanied by rapid changes in technology and the increasing proliferation of digitized devices and services. In many respects, these have been beneficial.

Innovation has driven economic development – and the pace of change seems likely to accelerate as a result of digitalization and advances in “frontier technologies” such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, biotechnology, and nanotechnology, all of which could help countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

New technologies have also proved critical in combating COVID-19. Biotechnology, for example, has been used to identify the virus and test for infection. And through broadband technologies and social media people have been able to connect while in physical isolation – facilitating business continuity, children’s education, and good mental health.

Technology development in Iran

Despite sanctions putting pressure on the country, a unique opportunity was provided for business development and the activity of knowledge-based companies in the country.

Currently, some 5,000 knowledge-based companies are active in the country, manufacturing diverse products to meet the needs of the domestic market while saving large amounts of foreign currency.

The fields of aircraft maintenance, steel, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment, oil, and gas are among the sectors that researchers in technology companies have engaged in, leading to import reduction.

In recent years, the vice presidency for science and technology has been supporting knowledge-based companies active in the production of sanctioned items.

Vice President for Science and Technology Sourena Sattari told the Tehran Times in October 2020 that “U.S. sanctions caused exports of knowledge-based companies to decline three years ago, however, it has returned to growth and is projected to reach the pre-sanctions level of more than $1 billion by the end of the current [Iranian calendar] year (March 20, 2021).

Fortunately, last year, companies achieved a record sale of 1.2 quadrillion rials (nearly $28.5 billion at the official rate of 42,000 rials), which is expected to increase by 40 percent this year.”

To date, 42 knowledge-based companies with a total value of 2.8 quadrillion rials (nearly $66.6 billion) have been listed on the stock exchange and they will soon turn into the biggest businesses in the county, Sattari said.