IRAN: 20-year plan for knowledge-based economy

To promote a knowledge-based economy, Iran has announced a 20-year "comprehensive plan for science" focusing on science in higher education and industry-university research partnerships.

"Despite being under sanction for about 30 years, this plan will enable Iran to sustain its scientific progress, making it a good model for developing countries to follow as it demonstrates self-reliance on a domestic pool of talents and technological know-how," said Mohammad Taeb, head of biotechnology in the faculty of agriculture at Islamic Azad University.

A 2008 report, International comparative performance of the UK research base, noted that Iran substantially increased its share of world papers, showing a 10-fold increase to almost 7,000 papers over 2007. This will further increase Iran's output and research impact.

The main aim of the plan is to move Iran from an economy based on natural resources to a one knowledge-based through promoting knowledge production, technology development, and commercialisation of science and technology - making Iran the top -ranked country in South West Asia.

The mission-oriented report of the plan contains 10 chapters and sets qualitative and quantitative objectives that support long term socio-economic development in the next 20 years. They take into consideration the strategic and innovative priorities of various scientific and technological fields.

Besides aiming to increase the number of scientists to 3,000 per million of population, the plan sets the goal of increasing investment in research to 4% of GDP, and to 7% for education, 50% of which will come from private sector investment.

Hadi Asadi Rahmani, a soil microbiologist at the Tehran-based Soil and Water Research Institute, told University World News, "At the moment, investment in research is less than 1% of GDP and less than 10% comes from private sectors. Thus, the plan aims to reduce the dependency of research investment on natural resource incomes, such as petrol whose price fluctuates and is falling now, and shift it to a knowledge--based one."

The plan also calls for promoting public understanding of science, as well as establishing research infrastructure with more focus on setting up science and technology parks to encourage private sector investment in science.

Under the plan, industry-university research partnerships to convert ideas into new commercial processes, products and technologies will be promoted. Research and science education will focus on achieving high-level innovation in areas such as nanotechnology, information technology, biotechnology, aerospace, energy, environment, health, water management and national transportation.

The plan also calls for decreasing emigration of elite professionals and specialists to other countries using several measures, including ways of boosting employment in higher education and providing special facilities, preserving their social status and preparing facilities and regulations in entrepreneurship.

Opening Iran's nanotechnology research centre on 19 July was the first step in implementing the plan. The centre will conduct studies on the applications of nanotechnology in agriculture with more focus on development of new methods of nanotechnology-based product packaging and the invention of pest control methods.

"The final aim of the plan is producing native science and knowledge, innovation, self- sufficiency and environmental protection, as well as focusing on advance sciences to achieve a first ranking in the innovation index in the Middle East,." Rahmani said.