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[CAIRO]  A regional centre aimed at promoting science, technology and innovation for economic development in the Middle East and Central Asia was launched in Iran last month (12 May).

The Regional Centre for Science Parks and Technology Incubators Development is based in Isfahan, Iran, and hosted by Isfahan Science & Technology Town. The centre will function under the auspices of UNESCO, which will provide technical assistance, if needed, for its programme activities.

The centre will act as a regional platform to promote the development of science parks and technology incubators in the ten member countries of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO): Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  

The Iranian Ministry of Science, Research and Technology and Isfahan city government will run the centre and coordinate its work with other ministries and departments.

Besides capacity building through regional training programmes, and technical assistance with the governance of science parks and technology incubators, the regional centre will also facilitate knowledge transfer and support research, networking and information exchange among ECO member states. 

It will provide science and technology (S&T) policy advice and conduct research and problem solving in S&T transfer.

"Iran is developing very rapidly in science and technology so with this regional centre we will be able to enhance our regional scientific collaboration with Islamic countries in strategic technologies," Ali Karami, molecular biologist at Baqiyatallah University of Medical Science, and editor of the Iranian Journal of Medical Biotechnology told SciDev.Net.

Éric Archambault, founder and president of Canada-based Science-Metrix, a company that specialises in the evaluation of science, technology and innovation for economic development, welcomed the news.

"Iran shows once again that it is willing and able to lead the region both scientifically and technologically," he said. 

"Iran is showing the fastest worldwide growth in science, its scientific output has grown 11 times faster than the world average," Archambault, told SciDev.Net.

"Despite more than 30 years of sanctions, Iran has made significant progress in different sectors, including aerospace, nuclear and medical sciences, agriculture development, stem cell and cloning research," Archambault said.