The EU would like to see spending on Research and Development (R&D) reach 3% of GDP by 2020, as set out in the EU2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. With this in mind, Malta is encouraging businesses to invest in research and innovation.
The Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) launched the National Strategy for Research and Innovation for 2007-2010, entitled 'Building and Sustaining the Research and Innovation (R&I) Enabling Framework' in 2006. It highlighted Malta's need to rapidly improve its R&I performance, and in essence, to see R&I as a fundamental pivot / driver of the Maltese economy.
With the coming to an end of the time period covered by the National R&I Strategic Plan 2007-2010, the need was felt to actively reflect on achievements, challenges and changes which have taken place over the past years and design a new national R&I strategic plan which builds on progress made and lessons learnt in implementing the previous Plan. The strategic plan will provide a policy framework for the coming decade, and will take into consideration; inter alia, on-going work in the preparation of thematic plans in several sectors. The plan will be based on strong stakeholder consultation. A draft R&I Strategic Plan was issued for public consultation in December 2011.
Malta remains committed to improving its ranking in Research and Innovation capacity and performance as reflected in the Innovation Union Scoreboard (IUS). The IUS for 2011 (published in February 2012) provides a comparative assessment of Malta's innovation performance with the EU-27. The different Member States are classified into four country groups, Innovation Leaders, Innovation Followers, Moderate Innovators and the Modest Innovators. Since 2009 Malta has been classified as a Moderate Innovator and has managed to keep its position within this group since then. Malta has also been identified as one of the growth leaders within the 'Moderate Innovators' group.
When assessing the performance of each indicator it can be noted that Malta has registered a percentage growth in just over half of the indictors, 13 out of 24 indicators. Malta’s performance over the past years reflects the increasing awareness of the importance of innovation in building a knowledge-based economy, thus the importance of these economic activities for the country. This improvement can have a multiplier effect on the economy at large as, through improving its innovation performance, Malta increases its competitiveness and its attractiveness to foreign investment.
The main national actors in relation to these issues and R&D in general include:
Alongside R&D, innovation is essential for businesses to develop and stay competitive.
Intellectual property must be protected to encourage research.
Malta Enterprise is currently developing a set of new incentives to support organisations involved in, or planning to undertake, industrial research and experimental development. These are likely to include grants or tax incentives for R&D projects; skills transfers where highly trained experts from research organisations or larger enterprises advise SMEs, and support for enterprises carrying out technical feasibility studies which may lead to research projects.
The National R&I Programme is one of the instruments proposed in the National Strategy in support of its aims. The Programme provides grants for research, development and innovation in science and technology. The focus of the Programme is knowledge transfer between academia and industry with specific focus on the four priority sectors identified in the National R&I Strategy, namely: Environment and Energy resources, ICT, Value-added Manufacturing and Health and Biotechnology.
The Programme, administered by the MCST had a budget of €1,600,000 in 2012. Calls under this Programme are published once a year. Project proposals submitted typically last between one and three years and the funding per project varies between €50,000 and €200,000.
The Malta Council for Science and Technology is also the National Contact Organization for the EU’s Framework Programme for Research, Development and Technological Development, and, as such, aims to help Maltese researchers and organisations wishing to apply for EU funding under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). FP7 will run until 2013 and the new Programme - Horizon 2020 - will be launched in 2014.
EUREKA, a European initiative aimed at stimulating research efforts and innovation, helps companies unify their resources and collaborate with research institutes for the development of advanced technologies and market oriented products.