06 August 2003

Search all issues

powered by FreeFind

Send Your Feedback!

Toon this week: The early bird catches the worm

Tapping innovation

Last week saw another wave of job losses in the manufacturing sector. It’s never a nice scene when people lose their jobs. Government can hardly be blamed for the international market forces and circumstances that influence industry, especially that which is geared for export.
But there is no room for kidding ourselves. Manufacturing in Malta is on the wane and has been so for a number of years, as it has been in most modern economies. It is cheaper for manufacturers to relocate their activities in African and Asian countries where cheap labour ensures lower costs.
This phenomenon may be the cause of economic despair or, alternatively, it may offer us the chance to move boldly into the modern economy.
Until now we have tried to attract industries, both foreign and Maltese owned, by offering factory space and other fiscal incentives. Something more radical needs to be done to cater for the knowledge industry that is slowly replacing manufacturing as an economic mainstay.
Knowledge is all about ideas and innovation. This is an area yet unexplored in Malta with very few industries investing in research and development.
For once Malta’s small size can be an advantage to industries wanting to test their projects on a fully-fledged country that is, however, small enough to make it cost-efficient.
We have heard it countless times that Malta should be transformed into a regional hub of activity. Or that Malta could be used as a testing ground for pilot projects. Despite these high-sounding words little has been done to bring about this transformation.
The new all-encompassing entity, Malta Enterprise, should offer the platform for knowledge expansion and innovation stimulation.
New measures and incentives have to be drafted such as relieving from income tax that part of company profits re-invested in research and development.
However, the buck must not stop at attracting the large and established knowledge-based companies, whether foreign or Maltese.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of enterprising individuals - including a substantial number of youths - have the energy to develop brilliant ideas into workable projects.
These also form an integral part of the knowledge industry. However, in most instances these brilliant minds end up being wasted because the individuals lack the investment capital to start up apart from not being market savvy.
The country cannot afford to lose these enterprising individuals. Enterprise Malta must live up to its name and reach out to people with great ideas.
The concept of business incubators does not seem to have taken off to the extent one would expect. Too few people know that there is an incubation centre in Kordin and that Malta is now part of the European network of innovation relay centres.
These projects should be bolstered, but not only. Much more can be done at the University and the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology to tap the human resources still developing there. Talent and ideas must be spotted and, more importantly, harvested.
Government may then play its part to match innovation with capital by creating programmes and offering incentives to both companies and individuals.
With an economy grinding to a halt, simply waiting for the manna to fall from the overseas skies will simply not be enough. And Malta Enterprise can play a very important role to fuel the next industrial and economic transformation.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | E-mail