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Innovation at the crossroads

Innovation is key to Malta’s long-term economic growth and improved quality of life.Innovation is key to Malta’s long-term economic growth and improved quality of life.

In response to the ongoing impacts of the information revolution, knowledge has become the engine for social and economic growth in advanced and less advanced economies.

Building an economy based on knowledge generation and innovation is a strategic goal which is of particular importance to Malta as a country whose only natural resource is its human capital.

‘Innovation’ is frequently mentioned in discourse about economic growth. However, its abstract nature, the risks which invariably surround it and the difficulty in quantifying its impact make it one of those popular terms which is mentioned often, understood little and consequently, funded even less.

Yet innovation is undoubtedly key to the transition to a knowledge-based economy. It is therefore an investment in the country’s long-term economic growth and improved quality of life.

The transformation to a knowledge-based economy cannot really happen unless we invest in people

The new ‘National research and innovation strategy’ which will be launched in the coming weeks will guide the way forward as to the investments required to build an enabling framework for innovation support. By the end of the time period covered by this new strategy, Malta will have in place a system which nurtures ideas for new or improved products, services, systems and processes to reach fruition through effective and focused interventions.

Innovation is primarily about ideas, and ideas come only from people. Therefore the transformation to a knowledge-based economy cannot really happen unless we invest in people. We must invest in our workforce, our our youth and our children.

We must provide them with the skills to think outside the box, to question the world around them, to see an opportunity and be motivated to seize it. We certainly need more innovative start-ups, and thus any national research and innovation strategy should have a business-orientation approach and increased focus on innovation.

Innovative start-ups can be spin-offs from academia or can simply be entrepreneurs wishing to set up their own companies. Either way, such a strategy should emphasise the need to provide the necessary framework for this to happen – the management of intellectual property and the right type of funding support at the right time should be the bedrock of a well-performing innovation ecosystem which such a strategy should include.

In order to achieve the goals of this strategy, there is the need for a concerted effort across all ministries, public entities and private sector. We need to streamline initiatives, making sure they are complementary, tailored to our needs and goals and making best use of the funding available by avoiding duplication of efforts and prioritising initiatives.

It is in our collective interest as a nation committed to its economic growth and improved living standards to ensure that the goals of this strategy are achieved.

Stefan Buontempo is Parliamentary Secretary for Research, Innovation, Youth and Sport.

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