Letters: 8th June 2014

Boosting research and innovation

Research and innovation are one of the pillars for economic growth leading to increased competitiveness, further job creation as well as addressing societal challenges.

Today, everyone is trying to come up with an innovative product or service or even with a new process or method. Thus, innovation is not only about a breakthrough but also about an improvement or enhancement of something that already exists.

Experience has shown that countries with consistently high investments in research and innovation tend to cope better with economic turmoil. Latest statistics show that the level of R&D Expenditure as a percentage of GDP for Malta has increased significantly in the last years, reaching 0.84% in 2012, compared to an average of 0.55% until 2010.

However, the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014 published by the European Commission has classified Malta as one of the moderate innovators, together with Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain, registering an innovation performance which is below that of the EU average. It is important that Malta strives hard in this sector in order to raise the research and innovation profile.

The Malta Council for Science and Technology is undertaking all the required efforts in order to create an enabling framework to generate further research and innovation.

Since 2004, various research and innovation projects have been supported through Government funds. However, the time has come to take a step further and help researchers and technologists to understand the importance of their research, the value it can possess and the impact it could have on society at large.

The Council is launching FUSION, the R&I Programme; a funding programme which provides the funding for research and innovation, coupled with the necessary handholding to enable researchers and technologists to turn their innovative ideas into a market ready reality. FUSION is supported through Government funds and will run from 2014 to 2020, with an average annual budget of €1.6million.

FUSION is composed of two main programmes - the Commercialisation Voucher Programme and the Technology Development Programme. These two complementary programmes are designed in such a way as to offer the necessary tools, mentoring and financial support to translate research results and innovation into commercial activities thus generating further economic growth and job creation.

FUSION will aim at raising locally funded research and ingrain research and innovation at the heart of the Maltese economy to spur knowledge-driven and value-added growth and sustain improvements in the quality of life.

FUSION: The R&I Programme will be launched on Thursday 12 June 2014. For further information visit www.mcst.gov.mt.

Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Executive Chairman, Malta Council for Science and Technology

Where is the denial?

It seems that all media columnists and all newspapers are the same, creating stories to fill the pages. I always believed that Saviour Balzan was different but now I’m not quite sure.

Reading his article, published on 1 June, I was very much disgusted. I do not think it is fair to label anybody by saying something that, in my opinion, is not true. Leader of the PN Simon Busuttil had admitted defeat at the very minute that it was evident Labour had the majority of votes and immediately congratulated Joseph Muscat on the victory. He also held a press conference. Where is the denial?

I am sure that if the elections produced a different result – if the PN had received the majority of votes – you would have questioned it. Did you really expect the PN to triumph in this election, with or without Busuttil? I don’t think so. Yet you continue to tear into Busuttil and his party.

In that same week, after Therese Comodini Cachia had been elected to the sixth seat, you labeled her a criminal for her alleged involvement with Henley and Partners. However I read a statement from Comodini Cachia categorically denying any involvement.

Please do not make me out to be a soldier of steel – I wish to be a soldier of reason and principle. If I am correct, this election was held so the Maltese could fill six places in the European Parliament. The result was three Labour and three Nationalist candidates. Labour lost one, the PN gained one. This result showed that Labour retained its strength and was considered negative by some, including Nationalists, who were expecting a miracle.

They forgot the harsh defeat the PN suffered last year. Busuttil gave up a career in the EP to take command of a ship that sank in 2008. Is there one honest person who expects him to turn that around in one year?

I used to say that the government would be stabbed by its own weapons – the writing was on the wall before the 2008 election - but back then nobody listened. Until it happened in 2013. I wish that I am wrong but I believe it will take years to recover.

Joseph Muscat, Mosta