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Iranian president opens first major startup accelerator in Tehran

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has opened a first major startup accelerator in the county, a sign his government is intent on using the domestic know-how to compensate for the technological losses caused by the American sanctions.

Rouhani on Tuesday opened the Azadi Innovation Factory (AIF) in a location west of the capital Tehran where he spent hours talking to heads of startups and minor accelerator companies involved in various fields of technology and science.

Comprised of 10 large halls centered around a U-shaped building, the AIF has been set up inside an area of 18,500 square meters that was once a manufacturing site. The tech center has created nearly 3,500 jobs for innovators and young Iranian graduates.

The center focuses on fields of technology where Iranian startups have developed over the past years, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. It will also try to mentor and invest in work on tourism, architecture and insurance, among other topics.

Making a speech in the opening ceremony of the AIF, Rouhani said the center would remove administrative barriers that normally hamper the launch of new technology-based businesses.

The Iranian president said his government had “endured lots of pressure” to provide the communication services required for the progress of technology centers in Iran, saying launching initiatives like the AIF would not have been possible without the broadband infrastructure that currently exist in Iran.

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Rouhani’s top aide for technology and science also said during the ceremony that eight similar innovation factories would be launched across Iran a near future.

Sorena Sattari said most of those centers will be established in abandoned factories or other deserted locations inside or around major cities.

The opening of the startup incubator in Tehran comes amid Iran’s struggle to compensate for the loss of technology created in various fields of manufacturing and industry as a result of sanctions imposed by the US which have forced foreign companies to withdraw from projects in the country.

Iran hopes it could tap into its domestic sources of knowledge and technology to keep major industries running at the time of increased economic pressure.

Authorities said on Monday that an Iranian company focused on production of compressors and turbines had managed to manufacture key oilfield equipment on its own and without any direct support from foreign companies.

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