Science, technology and innovation a powerful engine for sustainable development in the Islamic Republic of Iran

15 May 2017

A new report from UNCTAD finds that the Islamic Republic of Iran has greatly improved its science, technology and innovation capacity over the past decade. However, policy action can further improve the country's ability to harness the full potential of STI as an instrument to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) 20th session discussed the recently released UNCTAD report entitled: Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Review: the Islamic Republic of Iran.

"Science and technology, alongside trade, are the most powerful driving forces for achieving growth, poverty reduction and overall human development," said Shamika Sirimanne, Director of UNCTAD's Division on Technology and Logistics while introducing the report. "Through the CSTD, UNCTAD is committed to supporting Iran in implementing recommendations that will allow the country to achieve new economic heights," she continued.

Throughout history, major transformative shifts in countries' growth and development trajectories have often been linked with the successful application of science, technology and innovation (STI). Countries that invested wisely in STI as part of a coherent development strategy have built strong capabilities and fostered national growth and development. The implementation of policies on STI is an essential element in strategies for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UNCTAD review shows that since 2005 the Islamic Republic of Iran has implemented important policy measures to promote technology upgrading and improve innovation capacity. It nevertheless recommends, among other things, that policies on STI be better aligned with other key development policies related to industrial development, trade, FDI, education, and competition.

Attending the CSTD meeting in Geneva, the Islamic Republic of Iran's Vice President for Science and Technology, Dr. Sorena Sattari, said that "We have specifically benefitted from policy recommendations of the STIP review". He added that this was an opportunity to share his country's experience. One of the key roles of the CSTD is to act as a forum for the exchange of country experiences and mutual learning.

This sentiment was shared by other top Iranian policy makers present. "The CSTD's 20th Session is a good opportunity for us to engage with stakeholders on the recommendations for redesigning STI policies and learn from others' best practices" said Dr. Mehdi Elyasi, Deputy for Policy Making and Strategic Evaluation at the Vice Presidency for Science and Technology of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He added that "the Iran STI Policy Review is an important guide in the formulation of STI policies for economic growth at national, regional and international levels."

The review stresses the importance of building an innovation system and economy capable of simultaneously generating strong firms in traditional industries (such as oil and gas and steel) as well as innovative new firms in newly emerging industries (such as nanotech and ICTs).

UNCTAD's STIP review assesses the country's policy framework, regulations, institutions and infrastructure, and recommends the following strategic measures for the country:

  • Ensure greater coherence between STI policy and other key development policies.

  • Restructure the division of functions and responsibilities for STI governance.

  • Modify the approach to evaluation and policy learning with a view to strengthening policy experimentation.

  • Adopt a comprehensive strategy for attracting and benefitting from foreign direct investment as well as other external sources of funding, implementing policies and creating conditions that promote linkages, technology flows and technological learning.

  • Promote the goal of a knowledge-based economy across traditional industrial sectors, while maintaining policy support for start-ups and new growth areas, including through professional business services and an upgraded innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.

  • Establish a short to medium term target for an attainable level of R&D spending with a focus on promoting and providing incentives for R&D by the business sector.

UNCTAD - as the focal point within the UN system for technology and development-related issues - assists interested developing countries in assessing their national STI systems, and provides advice on how to strengthen technological capacity and innovation performance in order to promote higher productivity and structural transformation and, ultimately, achieve sustainable development. Since 2008, UNCTAD has worked with 11 developing countries to improve their STI policy frameworks, helping their firms and industries to compete more effectively in a highly globalized world economy.

The CSTD's 20th session brought together over 200 people from 60 countries, including Science and Technology Ministers, renowned scientists, and representatives from national governments, the private sector, civil society, regional and international agencies, and academia. This year, the Commission addressed how new innovation approaches - including pro-poor innovation, grand challenges, and novel forms of digital collaboration - can support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and how STI can help end hunger by 2030.