Miriam Dalli | Innovation in Malta’s next level

Having a skilled workforce is quintessential. Innovation does not only entail embracing the latest technological developments, but also making sure that technical abilities are given due importance

Innovation is imperative. Very few, if any, will contest this statement, which is complex despite its brevity. What does it mean to be innovative, especially within the context of the Maltese islands’ future?

Innovation is a state of mind; a principle ingrained in our ideas, which in turn needs to be put into action. When considering the industrial future that lies ahead, we must recognise the importance of taking advantage of all possible opportunities and propose solutions for potential challenges. It is through continued dialogue that policy makers, industry stakeholders, trade unions and constituted bodies can ensure that our economies are future-proof and that Malta transcends onto the next level. As a policy-maker, it is my responsibility to see that our economic sectors are both productive and competitive. This is achievable if we work in tandem with the private sector, to be able to attract the right investment that can sustain our economic strength and prepare our workforce accordingly.

Having a skilled workforce is quintessential. Innovation does not only entail embracing the latest technological developments, but also making sure that technical abilities are given due importance. We need to reconsider the presence of technical schools, so that students who are technically inclined are educated in the best ways possible. We must focus on students who will be employed in ten years’ time and who will contribute to our economy. They must be equipped with the necessary tools for learning, in order to be able to find good quality employment. I want to have an education system that collaborates more with our industries, so that our students can gain first-hand experience in different sectors, learn how industries work and be in a better position to respond to a knowledge-based economy.

The future is about innovation, but innovation requires constant investment. The Maltese islands need more investment in research and development and further investment in ensuring that upcoming social challenges are tackled. We need to make sure that we increase financial investment in research and development and this must be coupled with access to financing, targeted educational programmes, increased collaboration between researchers and partnerships between universities, educational institutions, the public sector and the private sector. Further incentives and support to SMEs are key if we want our small and medium sized enterprises to expand their knowledge and invest in new systems. Digitisation should not be seen as a cost-cutting exercise, but as a measure that can help improve the efficiency and productivity of any company.

Throughout this campaign and as part of my work as MEP, I have visited a number of companies in Malta, particularly manufacturing companies. This sector has proven to be innovative and internationally competitive, facilitated by the fact that we have industry players with considerable technical expertise and a well-educated and trained workforce. This is all the more important in view of the fact that we are living in an era of unprecedented economic growth. We recently learnt that Malta has recorded a third consecutive surplus. This is a confirmation that we have a robust economic growth. Now we need to make sure that, such economic growth is re-invested in our people, our communities and society. Moreover, the government announced plans to lay out a new and more efficient fibre optic link in Gozo.

This is fundamental for Gozo-based companies that would like to invest further and a prime example that infrastructure is key if we want to continue sustaining a shift and a proper transition to the industry of the future.

Innovation is key, not only because it ensures that we remain competitive, but also because in a country like ours, where land is scarce and size is limited, we need to make sure that we invest in the latest technological advancements and in innovative sectors. It is all about where we want to go as a nation and what kind of industries we want to attract. I believe that the future lies in industries that are specialised with a high value added. We are witnessing this with developments related to medical cannabis, blockchain and Artificial Intelligence.

There is also a lot of potential when it comes to innovation in mobility and industries related to it, including charging infrastructure, smart mobility, autonomous driving and battery components. There is a lot of untapped potential in smart, clean and renewable energy. These are the industries of the future, which can help Malta continue growing and create jobs.

Expansion is only possible if we invest in innovation, research and development, and this is why I believe in policy-making that promotes change.

This is a change that we need to harness if want to ensure that our businesses, our workforce and our consumers keep on benefitting from the opportunities that lie ahead.

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