On September 25, 2020 MEUSAC, in collaboration with the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), organised a digital conference on Research and Innovation (R&I), bringing together stakeholders from various sectors for a focused discussion on the future of European innovation.
In her opening address, MEUSAC Head, Ms Mandy Falzon, stressed that COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of innovation in our ability to adapt to different situations. She said that Europe can lead a new wave of R&I, but for this to be successful there must be cross-sectoral support at local, national and European levels.
H.E. Patrick Duffy, Ambassador of Ireland to Malta, focused on the Irish experience on R&I and stressed that Ireland was able to make progress on innovation thanks to a thriving R&I culture and sound political leadership. He noted that SMEs are vital to successful innovation in any country whilst noting that Ireland ranks as the most innovative country in Europe for SME innovation.
Maltese MEP, Josianne Cutajar, highlighted that the focus on Digital Innovation Hubs, sustainability advisors, and the Enterprise Europe network are vital to foster a culture of innovation amongst European SMEs, offsetting the lack of expertise and knowledge faced by many SMEs in Europe. She highlighted Creative Industry and the Maritime Sector as being two primary R&I areas for Malta.
Mr Omar Cutajar, Technical Attaché at the Permanent Representation of Malta to the EU, said the European Commission is focusing heavily on Research & Innovation in Europe, notably through the prioritisation of high-performance computing, quantum technologies and cyber-security. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also gaining traction and some important initiatives are expected in the coming years, particularly to build on the White Paper on AI.
Ms Oxana Mercieca, the National Project Coordinator EUREKA at Malta Enterprise said that SMEs are most interested in innovating diversifying their operations.
In his closing remarks, Dr Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Executive Chairman of MCST, emphasised that positive public perception of STEM education is key to fostering a stronger R&I culture in Malta. He said that MCST and MEUSAC shall continue seeking to collaborate to emphasise the importance of a more innovative national economy, particularly in the context of the European drive for innovation.
Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services and Digital Economy, Clayton Bartolo, in his concluding remarks, said this conference offers the best forum for innovation and research to be properly discussed. Innovation goes beyond technological breakthroughs, with R&I being the best tools to build a knowledge-based economy and lead to social improvements.
In his closing address Minister Carmelo Abela said R&I is based on the need to do more and on the ability to face challenges in different ways. Yet, R&I still ranks very low in Malta’s economy although this culture is slowly changing. Minister Abela said that the Government must do more to support this. This conference serves as a starting point to identify Malta’s challenges, and has provided us with a better understanding of how to assimilate best practices in R&I. Malta must upskill its workforce on digital knowledge and this will allow Malta to become more competitive.