Gozo is increasingly becoming the place to do business smartly and innovatively, and the Gozo Innovation Hub being co-financed through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is set to further strengthen the island’s potential in this regard.
With a pipeline of prospective tenants who have already applied to be hosted at the Hub, Malta Industrial Parks is not just looking at quantity, but is in pursuit of quality tenants with innovative projects.
Among the first to be allocated space are companies partnering with global giants Microsoft and Google, who will be working on some of their respective projects through an operation at the Gozo Innovation Hub.
Last August, Microsoft announced it would be partnering with Gozitan IT specialists J2 Group
in order to work on the Microsoft CityNext project, which seeks to empower citizens and cities through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
As part of their joint research and development, Microsoft and J2 will be conducting pilot projects in Gozo to explore efficient ways for the implementation of this technology, which may lead to a substantial contribution in various areas such as health, tourism, traffic, supply-chain management and logistics.
The investment was announced on the same day that Malta Industrial Parks signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry for Gozo, Malta Enterprise and MCAST to collaborate on various initiatives aimed at facilitating innovative investment in Gozo, and enhancing education programmes within this sector.
It followed on another major investment – announced in November 2018 – that would see Italian company Noovle also set up at the Gozo Innovation Hub. A Google Cloud Premium Partner, Noovle had announced it would set up its research centre on the island from where it would offer solutions related to cloud, hybrid cloud, machine learning, blockchain, and ICO processes to its clients.
“Such investments are testimony to not only Malta’s, but also to Gozo’s potential as an ideal location for doing business within the sectors related to those new technologies that will be shaping our future, such as AI and machine learning, bio-informatics, cybersecurity, digital ledger technologies (DLTs) including blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT),” a spokesperson for Malta Industrial Parks said.
“Given the country’s resilient infrastructure with multiple links to the rest of the world, these sectors are not limited in any way by the islands’ insularity. On the contrary, the islands can actually serve as an ideal base where to come up with innovative ideas, develop them, try them out in a pilot project with a small test base and at a contained cost, and then share them on the global market once they have proved to be successful,” the spokesperson added.
Gozo in particular lends itself perfectly for such pilot projects in view of its smaller size and population. With the laying down of the new fibre optic cable and the introduction of the fourth ferry vessel that has significantly reduced waiting and crossing time between the two islands, Gozo is overcoming the barriers and challenges that used to hinder business growth.
Conscious of this, the local authorities have worked diligently to establish a very competitive institutional and legislative framework through which companies in these sectors can thrive, with Malta Industrial Parks being entrusted with the development of various projects that would provide the physical infrastructure that such companies may require to operate.
Previously focused almost exclusively on the industrial estates around the Maltese islands, which mainly housed manufacturing companies and crafts, Malta Industrial Parks has expanded its portfolio and also provides space for high-tech companies, providing quality and innovative spatial solutions which complement the needs of this strongly emerging sector. In this respect, Malta Industrial Parks is looking at providing other ancillary services in an integrated manner, such as gated facilities, break out areas, underground parking, canteen facilities, and adequate landscaping to create an environment worthy of the new and emergent technologies.
“Complementing the hard infrastructure within such centres or hubs, Malta Industrial Parks also offers services to its tenants, comprising round-the-clock security services, shared receptionist and secretarial duties, and also any other service that tenants may require during the course of their work,” the spokesperson said.
The Gozo Innovation Hub epitomises this shift, although Malta Industrial Parks is also working on other projects that will likewise provide the space for new technologies – possibly in collaboration with or entirely within niches in different industries, such as the Malta Life Sciences Park.
The Gozo Innovation Hub
Located on the outskirts of the Xewkija industrial estate on the way towards Victoria, the Gozo Innovation Hub is a unique campus-style development offering a wide array of services, all aimed at helping new companies set up with ease and then operate successfully.
The Gozo Innovation Hub comprises two main buildings linked together by means of a covered walkway and having an outside area between them that not only creates a better working environment, but could also be used for events.
Visitors enter the premises through the reception within the administration building, which also houses additional facilities such as a conference hall, meeting rooms, administrative offices, a kitchenette, and other shared facilities that could be used by all tenants.
The larger building, spread on two floors and having a total area of 9,000 square metres, is the business centre. Each floor comprises a number of open plan business units, ranging in size between 85 square metres up to 270 square metres, with the possibility of interlinking units should the prospective tenants require.
Administered by Malta Industrial Parks, the Gozo Innovation Hub is the only business centre having a Government interest that is solely dedicated to innovative high-tech companies focusing on projects arising from new technologies.
It also enjoys the full support of the Ministry for Gozo, which among others provides an incentive to assist companies hire new employees. Through this incentive, companies that set up at the Gozo Innovation Hub may get a refund of 30 per cent of the average median wage up to a maximum amount of €6,000 for every employee that is offered a contract of three years or more.
This article initially appeared in the October edition of Blockchain Island