During a Press Conference for the Post-Doc Fellowship Scheme, The Malta Chamber CEO, Dr Marthese Portelli, highlighted that The Malta Chamber strongly believes that we can only have a sustainable and resilient economy if we move up the value chain and develop economic activities that generate real substance in our economy.
“Attractive regulation and our fiscal framework have served us well for many years, but maintaining and attracting new industries in the future will require us to be more innovative on other fronts as well, including in the development of technology. This requires a sound research infrastructure that is both proportionate to our size, but also one that nonetheless is able to drive innovation in all the economic sectors which we have successfully developed over the past decades,” said Dr Portelli.
While applauding the University of Malta for managing to increase the number of PhD graduates in several fields, The Malta Chamber CEO noted that the next step is to foster better industry-academic collaboration so that post-doctoral researchers can apply themselves to develop solutions that can be applied in the local industry and scaled up for export. “This requires a shift in mindset on both sides. Academics need to acknowledge that the local industry provides opportunities for commercialisation of research that will help develop our economy further, and industry needs to see the potential in local researchers and engage with them to enhance their products and services,” she said.
Dr Portelli outlined that many of the local businesses are SMEs who do not have in-house capabilities for extensive research. “Research projects, by their very nature, are risky investments, in that typically only one of several is truly successful commercially. Companies that are large enough to have several projects running have their risk spread out, and the one project that is successful typically covers the cost of several projects that would be running in parallel. However, for smaller companies, this is not likely to be the case. The Post-Doc Fellowship Scheme provides the means for smaller companies to pursue a research project with a post-doctoral researcher that is funded,” noted The Malta Chamber CEO.
“The Malta Chamber had been pushing for a scheme like this together with the University of Malta for many years. Finally, it has materialised. We are therefore happy to see these funds being awarded and hope to see the scheme grow in budget in future years so that industry-academia collaboration can become an integral part of the development of our industries. The country spends a lot of money on education, and we often question whether we are reaping the best possible results. As a Chamber, we believe that it’s not how much money we spend, but on what we spend it. Money spent on supporting research and innovation is money well invested because it contributes directly to the creation of long-term revenue streams in our economy,” emphasised Dr Portelli.
Benefits of industry-academia collaboration are numerous. Every academic that will be involved in these projects will have the opportunity to interact directly with the local industry and to exchange knowledge. Post-doctoral researchers undoubtedly have extensive academic knowledge to share. Industry players know the market, and are able to provide insight into what incremental innovations can make their products and services more competitive. Those insights can trickle down into University lecture halls where our future graduates are being prepared for a world that is increasingly more complex and more value-driven.
In its pre-electoral document of policy recommendations “Time to Step Up”, published a little over a year ago, The Malta Chamber stated that “a concerted effort is required to push up the spend on R&I to 3% of GDP through a robust framework of accessible investment incentive programmes and support mechanisms.” This scheme is one of the initiatives The Malta Chamber recommended and supported to contribute towards the attainment of this target. “We therefore thank the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Research, and Innovation, Keith Azzopardi Tanti, for implementing this scheme, and the University of Malta for their support and collaboration,” said Dr Portelli.
“We wish all those who have received funding every success in their endeavours and hope to see more research applied projects being funded in future. We believe that these are the first steps on a journey in the right direction in which the success of the few who are embarking on these projects today, can inspire many others to take the plunge and look into research and innovation as a key to the long-term growth of their business, and in the case of post-doc researchers, to applying their knowledge and capabilities for the advancement of our economy,” noted The Malta Chamber CEO.
The Post-Doc Fellowship Scheme 2022 was launched last October by The Malta Chamber together with the University of Malta and Parliamentary Secretariat for Youth, Research and Innovation.