Research and innovation (R&I) are key components in securing Malta’s economic future and they’re at the heart of the European Commission’s policies to boost jobs, growth and investment.
Research and Innovation (R&I) policy is driving the European Union’s green and digital transitions and it contributes significantly to achieving each of the European Commission’s six headline priorities for 2019-24.
European research and innovation is also at the forefront of the EU’s response to the health, social and economic challenges caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
EU support for research and innovation allows Maltese researchers to be involved with, or take the lead in, projects that are making breakthrough discoveries in science, health, transport, climate change and digital technologies.
The European Innovation Council (EIC) is Europe’s flagship innovation programme to identify, develop and support new technologies and game-changing innovations. About two-thirds of Europe's economic growth over the last few decades has been driven by innovation.
Malta’s R&D performance has improved through European Union membership. The country is classed as a ‘moderate innovator’ in the European Innovation Scoreboard for 2021which provides an analysis of innovation performance in EU countries, other European countries, and regional neighbours.
Innovation isn’t confined to big business and the EU provides funding and support to Maltese start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with breakthrough innovation projects through funding sources such as EIC Accelerator.
Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation over the 2021-27 period. It has a budget of around €95.5 billion that’s used to help tackle climate change, to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and to boost the EU’s competitiveness and growth.
Horizon Europe also provides opportunities for Maltese researchers and organisations to be at the forefront of research and innovation and to collaborate with leading organisations across Europe and the world. The Horizon Unit within the Malta Council for Science and Technology is ther contact point for Horizon Europe in Malta. By the end of 2020, Malta had received nearly €37 million under the previous Horizon 2020 programme.
Areas of success for Irish funding under Horizon 2020 include the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) with 23 projects and 43 Maltese participants, and Secure Societies (15 projects with 19 MT participants) from which Malta was awarded around € 10 million. All Maltese project funding is listed below:
- Marie Sklodowska Curie Actions: 23 projects with 43 MT participants (total of Eur 4,983,455)
- Information and Communication Technologies: 12 projects with 15 MT participants (total of Eur 2,823,854)
- Food security, sustainable agriculture and forestry, marine and maritime and inland water research: 15 projects with 21 MT participants (Total of Eur 3,720,105)
- Secure, clean and efficient energy: 20 projects with 20 MT participants (total of Eur 1,787,220)
- Smart, green and integrated transport: 10 projects with 13 MT participants (total of Eur 2,851,775)
- Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials: 13 projects with 17 MT participants (total of Eur 3,747,955)
- Secure societies: 15 projects with 19 MT participants (total of Eur 4,423,760)
- Spreading excellence and widening participation: 14 projects with 17 MT participants (total of Eur 3,960,292)
EU support for research and innovation encourages cooperation between research teams across countries and disciplines, which is vital in making breakthrough discoveries.
This means Maltese researchers can be part of, or even take the lead in, projects that can deliver on EU priority goals like smart technologies, sustainable transport or ‘green’ energy sources.
Being part of the European Research Area (ERA) is another way Malta can contribute significantly to global research and development. The ERA was created to help Europe become the world’s leading ‘knowledge economy’ by developing a single, borderless market for research, innovation and technology across the EU.
Funding for Malta
Maltese researchers with viable proposals can search for funding opportunities on the Single Electronic Data Interchange Area (SEDIA), which is the single-entry point for finding and managing EU grants and procurement contracts.
The Horizon 2020 & Horizon Europe funding streams give participants exposure to a large European network of relevant research organisations, business advisory services, investors and companies.
350 Maltese organisations have been involved in Horizon 2020 projects, receiving over € 36 million in EU funding. Maltese SMEs have been granted over €7 million of this total.
Examples of EU-funded Maltese projects:
- BEHAPI. HOT (Excellent Science Pillar): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m67wNGUzpi0&t=91s
- PRIME-VR2, DASHIN (Industrial Leadership Pillar): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D7THD7Pt4o
- iFishIENCi, DESTINATIONS (Societal Challenge Pillar): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WG4naKFEcas
- JUMP2Excel, Renature (Horizontal Actions) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksDXQ-Cy7MU&t=2s
The European Union has been at the forefront of supporting research and innovation into combating pandemics since long before the outbreak of Covid-19. In fact, between 2007 and 2019 €4.1 billion was invested in research into; epidemiology, preparedness and response to outbreaks, the development of diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines.
Within hours of the World Health Organisation declaring COVID-19 a global public health concern on January 30, 2020, the European Commission launched a €10 million emergency call for Coronavirus research projects.
The European Commission has pledged just over €1 billion from Horizon 2020 for diagnostics, treatments, vaccines and research into all aspects of the pandemic and EU Research Ministers accelerated support to European research teams by endorsing the ten-point ERAvsCorona action plan to combat the coronavirus, including the funding of innovative approaches for researchers to deliver quick results.
The European Commission also launched a new European Research Area (ERA) corona platform to provide information, dedicated support and real-time updates on funding opportunities for coronavirus related research and innovation.