Fabian Demicoli

Research and Innovation put on MCESD agenda – GRTU urges link between research and SME needs for business development

An MCESD meeting held this week focused on the need to prioritise research and innovation. University of Malta RIDT CEO Wilfred Kenely introduced the subject by giving an overview of the research initiatives undertaken by the Research, Innovation and Development Fund throughout the past four years since its setup. It was highlighted that the human capital and infrastructure is available, but to take research to the next level investment needs to be 

upped. A number of research-driven initiatives have practical benefits to society at large, such as cancer research.

The MCESD meeting was also to discuss a proposal for budget initiatives related to the sector. The proposal’s main suggestions included:

  • Set up of a Malta Business Research and Innovation Hub                      
  • Promote knowledge transfer between industry and academia (KTPs)
  • Forecasting skills and human resources needed for R & D
  • Facilitate VISA applications for third country researchers
  • Promote the concept of Malta being a living lab for new business ideas
  • Additional funding through MCST and EU structural funds specifically for research
  • Programmes to incentivise commercialisation of projects
  • Equity financing instruments for innovation
  • Tax allowance of 200% of R & D expenditure to companies
  • Simplification, support and raising of awareness regarding issues related to Intellectual Property Rights

GRTU representative Matthew Agius welcomed the concept behind the proposed initiatives and explained how GRTU had always regarded research and innovation as essential in order to maintain our competiveness. It is often seen as a priority area which is often not regarded as the highest on the agenda, but GTRU expressed that it is high time for research and innovation to be truly focused upon and not invested in only as a peripheral concern.              

Coordination and Collaboration

In essence the idea to have one focal point for research and innovation through the form of a hub makes sense as long as coordinates and incorporates the work undertaken by the existing bodies. This would avoid fragmentation between the University of Malta, MCAST, Malta Enterprise, MCST and other initiatives.

Demand-Driven Research and Access to Resources

GRTU emphasized the importance to shift towards demand-driven research which is relevant and which makes needs of enterprises. SMEs and micro-businesses do not have the necessary resources to invest on structured research and development. It is therefore necessary to give access to these businesses to research resources at the University of Malta and MCAST whereby in turn these give applied opportunities for research to students and lecturers there. This can be linked to exigencies already in place such as that of  University of Malta collective agreements incentivising PhD research for all lecturers and the introduction of MQF Level 7 courses at MCAST. Linking business research needs to researchers could lead to opportunities to maximise the potential of research undertaken.

Small Business Research

GRTU also highlighted that research and innovation would be taking place at start-up or self-employed level where these may not necessarily be aware that what they are undertaking is indeed research and innovation. This hinders development as it is not structured and moreover, not captured as part of the national research and innovation. If it is not captured it is not supported. These are missed opportunities that need to be addressed. A measure to this extent needs to be included in the proposed incentives that were put forward at the MCESD meeting.

Incentivising Research

Incentives and channelling of research need to be further strengthened and widened. Incentives for investing in the RIDT Fund at the University of Malta have to be made clearer and more attractive whilst opening up other methods of incentivising research and innovation beyond the walls of our university.

Communication

Research and Development are not necessarily understood and appreciated across all sectors of society. Therefore the benefits and the need to give due priority are not always seen by the general public but also by operators in the field. Self-employed and small businesses often have limited resources. Considering that research and innovation do not always have immediate and assured returns, this may be seen as an area which is desired for but not high enough on their agenda to invest resources in. Therefore there needs to be a clear communication initiative of any measures introduced in order to accentuate what research and innovation can achieve and the promote the respective incentives across the board. This will also lead to more funds, such as through CSR initiatives, to be channelled to research.

 

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