University research trust calls for alumni support
Malta’s professional and business community should take more ownership of the University of Malta by supporting its research, innovation and development initiatives.
Wilfred Kenely, the chief executive of the University’s 16-month-old Research, Innovation and Development Trust, believes it would be noble for alumni to give something back to their Alma Mater to support its aspirations in research and innovation. Professionals could encourage their organisations or direct funds from their own businesses under corporate social responsibility campaigns.
“An investment in the university is an investment in the country,” Mr Kenely told The Times Business. #“Any university worth its salt has to contribute to the country’s development. Our only university has played an invaluable role in helping Malta preserve its sovereignty. It is the university which educated our thinkers, our leaders, our professionals. That contribution should be acknowledged. There should be greater pride in people’s voices when they say ‘I went to the University of Malta’. The RIDT would like to tap into that pride.”
Mr Kenely added that with the university attracting more post-graduates than ever before, the next step would be to develop a cohort of research fellows so that it could foster its own intellectual property. It is an objective that requires considerable funds.
University rector Juanito Camilleri, an accomplished computer scientist, has embraced research and innovation throughout his tenure. In a document outlining his Vision 2020 for the University of Malta, Prof. Camilleri argues that Malta’s geographic position in the middle of the Mediterranean has “conditioned our past and, if we are smart, it should remain axiomatic to our future”. Malta’s identity and sovereignty depend on our actions now and our vision for the future, the rector writes.
The RIDT’s establishment falls under the University’s vision to ensure it builds a lasting legacy by creating the necessary environment to stimulate curiosity, analysis, and development. The trust’s mission is to raise sorely needed funds to finance that environment.
Donations may be made online at http://ridt.org.mt .
A digital version of the University’s Think quarterly magazine, showcasing what Malta’s best and brightest researchers are up to – underwater robots, windpower, combating Alzheimer’s, and telescopes which can span continents – edited by Edward Duca is downloadable from RIDT’s portal.
Over the last few years, the University has been granted around €40 million in structural funds – over and above funds from central authorities which largely go towards salaries and operations. Some of the new funds have been directed towards the construction of the building to house the Faculty of ICT.
Significant investment has also been made in state-of-the-art equipment in the Faculties of Engineering, Science, and Medicine.
Mr Kenely, who is based at the Valletta campus in St Paul’s Street, explained the RIDT’s mission is to showcase what the University is already doing in the research sphere and continue to put research at the forefront of the university’s agenda.
“We need to start discussing research as we do economics and politics,” Mr Kenely said. “It is about time the wider Maltese community looked upon the university as a seat of thinkers, a place where the best brains this country has nurtured congregate and make discoveries. It is in the interest of Malta’s industry that this takes place, and the business and professional community should ensure that spirit is kept alive.”
Science in the City
On September 28, as part of Researchers’ Night, the EU-wide event to celebrate scientists, Valletta will host a festival of science-inspired art, music and theatre co-ordinated by the University of Malta.
Giant installations including a fibreglass brain, fruit flies, a DNA ‘staircase’ and an old Maltese bus built as a circle will be erected in key locations in the capital. Researchers will take part in a live TV show on St George’s Square featuring experiments, comedy and games. There will be a science-themed carnival parade with representations of Angry Birds characters and Sir Temi Zammit, among others. A programme including an art exhibition, plays, and events for children will be held at St James’ Cavalier. Many activities will continue during Notte Bianca the following day.
The event is supported by the EU FP7 Programme, the Malta Arts Fund, the Chamber of Scientists, Valletta council, PBS, Architecture Project (AP), MEUSAC, Lily Agius Gallery, and MARes.