Press Release: The Malta Council for Science and Technology ensures STEM Engagement, Research and Innovation remain at the forefront of the national agenda

2019 MCST Annual Report

Press Release

The Malta Council for Science and Technology ensures STEM Engagement, Research and Innovation remain at the forefront of the national agenda

The Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) has taken various initiatives, undertaken several projects and measures to ensure STEM Engagement, Research and Innovation remain at the forefront of the national agenda. These are all highlighted in the Annual Report for 2019 which MCST has launched and covers the activities of the Council in 2019 under the Executive Chairmanship of Dr. Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. Through the support of the Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation and the Office of the Prime Minister, MCST’s efforts are being reinforced.

Responding to the increasing demand and forecasted shortages of STEM skills in Europe, MCST has been a catalyst in STEM-related fields by enacting the National STEM Engagement Working Group through Esplora Interactive Science Centre. This Working Group brought together the major national stakeholders in the field of STEM including the University of Malta (UM), the Malta College of Arts Science and Technology (MCAST) and MCST itself to create awareness and address the shortage of STEM skills. A position paper was launched which includes various STEM Engagement measures including the development of a consolidated Malta Science Communication Strategy. Hence, MCST through Esplora, would be turning to its STEM Working Group to offer a synergistic and holistic approach to STEM Engagament on a local, EU and International level.

Esplora offered various events for schools and the public during 2019 including a new and revised school education programme in line with the Learning Outcomes Framework, various Family Science Days and Thematic Events for visitors of all ages. Among many other events, the latter included Carnival at Esplora, Halloween and Christmas at Esplora. An independent survey carried out by MISCO International confirmed a 14% increase in the perception and attitudes toward Science and Technology among the public in 2019 when compared to 2015. Other statistics also show an increase greater than 10% in STEM subject uptakes at year 8 for 2019 when compared to 2017.

Tying-in with the national drive to encourage a greater take up of STEM subjects by Maltese students, and to develop Malta’s knowledge-based economy the ground work for EsploraNatura has started and will complement Esplora in that it will address particular STEM subjects, such as the natural and biological sciences. A Director was engaged in the latter part of 2019 for the forty million euro plus project. Work on the formulation of the terms of reference, for the issuing of calls for tenders for Topographical Surveys and for Geological Surveys of the site intended for the location, progressed at a steady pace.

The works related to the rehabilitation of the foreshore around the Bighi peninsula progressed to an advanced stage, and visitors to Esplora will soon be able to access the Science Centre from the Grand Harbour through the historic Cot Lift. Through these efforts, MCST will be offering a holistic visitor experience that is second to none in the Mediterranean.

MCST’s Technical units have achieved unparallel growth as in 2019, MCST set up a dedicated Internationalisation Unit to deepen international collaboration amongst local and foreign researchers and stakeholders and to serve as a one-stop-shop for international initiatives in which the Maltese research community may participate. Of note is the work being done with Chinese counterparts, the Ministry of Science and Technology, most notably through the Sino-Malta Fund. The first call was launched in 2019, with a total budget of €700,000 put forward by MCST and MOST to fund one project in the field of Maritime Science and another project focusing on Transport. Successful projects are foreseen to commence in 2020.

In 2019, work intensified on plumtri – a platform for Research and Innovation – a one stop online portal for researchers wishing to connect with other researchers and/or find opportunities on research openings and calls amongst other R&I initiatives-to make it more relevant to local stakeholders whilst expanding the platform to partners operating in the Mediterranean region. It is remarkable to note that plumtri has been awarded as the Best eGovernment Initiative for 2019 in the eBusiness Awards.

Strong commitment to research and innovation is pivotal to make Malta one of the leading knowledge-based economies in the world.  Policy work, appropriate systems put in place have that transformative power of creating close links between science, policy and society. To this end, the policy unit at MCST started the groundwork and consultation on the smartspecialisation and Research & Innovation Strategy. In 2019, various steps were taken to collect as much information as possible from stakeholders on the future smart specialisation strategy and understand the key challenges that should be addressed in the next Research & Innovation Strategy.

An important input into the new national R&I Strategy post 2020 was the Peer Review of Malta’s R&I system, supported by the EU’s Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility. The outcomes and recommendations of the Peer Review report have been reviewed and discussions on their implementation have also commenced. This work will continue in 2020.

The first edition of the National Space Education programme, particularly the CanSat Malta and AstroPi activities open to all Maltese schools, reached its culmination in 2019. Organised in collaboration with the Ministry for Education and Employment, ESPLORA and ESA, the annual Space Education programme seeks to improve not only the scientific and technical insight of the younger generation, but also softer skills such as problem solving, teamwork and communication. MCST also continued to provide invaluable support to the government on Space policy, to support the Space Taskforce which was launched in March 2019.

MCST continued serving as Malta’s official contact point organisation in the administration of EU Framework Programmes. Horizon 2020, the biggest EU R&I programme, will be succeeded by Horizon Europe – an ambitious €100 billion research and innovation programme which will kick off in 2021 and run till 2027. Malta has greatly benefitted from EU innovation funding within the Horizon 2020 programme. By the end of 2019, 133 Grant Agreements have been signed with the participation of 179 Maltese entities. The amount of funding received by Maltese participants amount to €25.3 million. There are currently 61 unique entities successfully participating in Horizon 2020. The most active beneficiary is the University of Malta which is participating in 46 projects and received around €8.8 million since the beginning of the programme.

FUSION, the national R&I Programme, has continued to attract the attention of the local research community throughout 2020, with a budget of €2.2M. Through the Commercialisation Voucher Programme (CVP) and the Technology Development Programme (TDP), public and private entities have been able to test the viability of their ideas and engage in collaborative research respectively, with the total budget for the fund being consumed. Following the successful completion of the projects under CVP, 12 projects were awarded funding for through TDP during 2019. A total of almost €2.8M were committed to these projects, some of which will be completed in 2022.

MCST is very proud to show that the Annual Report financial statements reflect the consolidated position that MCST has taken good care of its funds.

The 2019 MCST Annual Report is available to interested parties via this link.



2019 Rapport Annwali MCST

Stqarrija lill-istampa

Il-Kunsill Malti għax-Xjenza u t-Teknoloġija jassigura li l-iSTEM Engagement, ir- Riċerka u l-Innovazzjoni jibqgħu fuq quddiem tal-aġenda nazzjonali

Il-Kunsill Malti għax-Xjenza u t-Teknoloġija (MCST) wettaq diversi inizjattivi, ħa diversi miżuri u implimenta numru ta’ proġetti sabiex jassigura li l-iSTEM Engagement, ir-Riċerka u l-Innovazzjoni jibqgħu fuq quddiem tal-aġenda nazzjonali. Dawn huma enfasizzati fir-Rapport Annwali tal-2019 maħruġ mill-MCST li jkopri l-attivitajiet tal-Kunsill fl-2019 taħt it-tmexxija taċ-Ċermen Eżekuttiv, Dott Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando. Bis-sapport sħiħ tas-Segretarju Parlamentari għas-Servizzi Finanzjarji, l-Ekonomija Diġitali u l-Innovazzjoni u l-Uffiċju tal-Prim Ministru, l-isforzi tal-MCST qed jiġu msaħħa.

B’rispons għaż-żieda fid-domanda kif ukoll għan-nuqqas ta’ ħiliet STEM imbassra fl-Ewropa, l-MCST serva bħala katalista f’oqsma relatati ma’ STEM billi nieda l-iSTEM Engagement Working Group nazzjonali permezz ta’ Esplora, iċ-Ċentru Interattiv għax-Xjenza. Dan il-Working Group ġabar flimkien il-pijunieri lokali f’dan il-qasam  inkluż l-Università ta’ Malta (UM), il-Kulleġġ Malti għall-Arti, Xjenza u Teknoloġija (MCAST) u l-MCST innifsu f’kampanja nazzjonali biex joħolqu għarfien u jindirizzaw in-nuqqas ta’ ħiliet STEM.

Ġiet ippubblikata position paper li tinkludi fiha l-miżuri diversi dwar kif se jkunu qed jintlaħqu dawn il-miri, kif ukoll l-iżvilupp ta’ strateġija dwar il-komunikazzjoni tax-xjenza f’Malta. Għalhekk, l-MCST permezz tal-Esplora, se jkun qed idur għall-għajnuna tal-Working Group biex jaħdem b’mod sinerġistiku u ħolistiku għal impenn fil-qasam STEM fuq livell lokali, Ewropew u Internazzjonalment

L-Esplora ħejja diversi avvenimenti għall-iskejjel u għall-pubbliku fl-2019, inkluż programm edukattiv ġdid u li ġie rivedut f’konformità mal-Qafas tal-Kisbiet mit-Tagħlim. Dan kien jinkludi numru ta’ Family Science Days u diversi Avvenimenti Tematiċi għall-viżitaturi ta’ kull età.  Dawn tal-aħħar inkludew attivitajiet marbuta mal-Karnival,  Halloween u l-Milied. Stħarriġ indipendenti mħejji minn MISCO International ikkonferma żieda ta’ 14% fil-perċezzjoni u l-attitudni tal-pubbliku lejn ix-Xjenza u t-Teknoloġija fl-2019 meta mqabbel mal-2015. Statistiċi oħra juru li fl-2019 kien hemm żieda ta’ aktar minn 10% fl-għażliet tas-suġġetti STEM fit-tmien sena skolastika meta ġie mqabbel mas-sena 2017.

Marbuta mal-isforzi nazzjonali sabiex l-istudenti Maltin jagħżlu aktar suġġetti STEM u sabiex tinbena ekonomija bbażata fuq l-għarfien, bdew il-preparamenti għall-EsploraNatura li se jikkumplimenta l-Esplora, għall-fatt li se jindirizza suġġetti STEM partikolari bħalma huma x-xjenzi naturali u dawk bioloġiċi.  Għal dan il-proġett, li se jkun jiswa aktar minn erbgħin miljun ewro, ġie ngaġġat direttur fl-aħħar parti tas-sena 2019. Beda x-xogħol fuq is-sejħiet għall-offerti għal studji topografiċi u ġeoloġiċi tas-sit. Ix-xogħol marbut ma’ dan il-proġett miexi b’pass mgħaġġel.

Qiegħed ukoll fi stadju avvanzat ix-xogħol ta’ tisbiħ tal-foreshore fil-madwar tal-peninsula Bighi, li b’permezz tiegħu l-viżitaturi ta’ Esplora se jkunu jistgħu jaċċessaw iċ-Ċentru Interattiv għax-Xjenza mill-Port il-Kbir. Bis-saħħa ta’ dawn l-isforzi, l-MCST se jkun qed joffri lill-viżitaturi esperjenza liema bħalha fil-Mediterran.

Id-dipartimenti tekniċi tal-MCST kibru sew fl-2019 billi nħolqot sezzjoni iffukata fuq l-internazzjonalizzazzjoni sabiex tiżdied il-kollaborazzjoni fost ir-riċerkaturi u l-partijiet interessati kemm lokali kif ukoll barranin. Dan se jservi bħala one-stop-shop għal inizzjattivi internazzjonali li fihom tista’ tipparteċipa l-komunità ta’ riċerka Maltija. Ta’ min wieħed isemmi x-xogħol li qed isir mal-kontroparti Ċiniża, il-Ministeru tax-Xjenza u t-Teknoloġija (MOST), partikolarment permezz tal-fond Sino-Malta. L-ewwel sejħa tnediet fl-2019, b’baġit ta’ €700,000 mressaq mill-MCST u l-MOST sabiex jiffinanzjaw proġett fil-qasam tax-xjenza marittima u proġett ieħor li jiffoka fuq it-trasport. Dawk il-proġetti li jintgħażlu għandhom jibdew fl-2020.

Tkompla sew ix-xogħol fuq plumtri – pjattafroma onlajn iddedikata għar-Riċerka u l-Innovazzjoni b’servizz għal dawk ir-riċerkaturi li jixtiequ jingħaqdu ma’ riċerkaturi oħra jew li jsibu opportunitajiet u sejħiet dwar ir-riċerka, kif ukoll inizzjattivi oħra tal-R & I aktar relevanti għall-partijiet interessati lokali. Il-pjattaforma ġiet estiża għal dawk l-imsieħba li joperaw fir-reġjun tal-Mediterran. Huwa notevoli li plumtri ngħata l-premju tal-Best eGovernment Initiative, l-Aqwa inizjattiva Elettronika tal-Gvern fl-eBusiness Awards tal-2019.

Impenn sħiħ għar-riċerka u l-innovazzjoni huwa kruċjali sabiex Malta jkollha waħda mill-aqwa ekonomiji fid-dinja bbażata fuq l-għarfien. It-tfassil ta’ politika u sistemi addatti għandhom is-saħħa li jagħmlu x-xjenza, il-politika u s-soċjetà aktar konnessi ma’ xulxin. B’dan il-għan, l-MCST beda l-preparamenti u l-konsultazzjonijiet fuq l-iStrateġiji tal-Innovazzjoni Nazzjonali għal Speċjalizzazzjoni Intelliġenti u tar-Riċerka u l-Innovazzjoni. Fl-2019 saru diversi sforzi sabiex tinġabar kemm jista’ jkun informazzjoni mill-partijiet interessati u b’hekk nifhmu aħjar x’inhuma l-isfidi ewlenin li għandhom jiġu indirizzati f’dawn l-istrateġiji li jmiss.

F’dan ir-rigward, eżerċizzju importanti ħafna li minnu ħarġet informazzjoni siewja kien il-Peer Review għas-sistema tal-R&I f’Malta, bis-sostenn tal-Policy Support Facility tal-Horizon 2020 tal-UE. Ir-riżultati u r-rakkomandazzjonijiet tar-rapport tal-Peer Review ġew riveduti u bdew id-diskussjonijiet dwar l-implimentazzjoni tagħhom. Din il-ħidma se tkompli fl-2020.

L-ewwel edizzjoni tal-Programm Edukattiv għall-iSpazju, partikolarment l-attivitajiet CanSat Malta u l-AstroPi nfetħu għall-iskejjel kollha Maltin u laħqu l-qofol tagħhom fl-2019. Dawn ġew organizzati f’kollaborazzjoni mall-Ministeru għall-Edukazzjoni u x-Xogħol, l-Esplora u l-Aġenzija Spazjali Ewropea. Dan il-programm, li jsir kull sena, għandu l-għan li mhux biss itejjeb il-ħiliet xjentifiċi u tekniċi tal-ġenerazzjoni żagħżugħa, iżda jibni wkoll fuq is-soft skills bħalma huma: li wieħed isolvi problema, li wieħed jaħdem f’tim u li jtejjeb il-komunikazzjoni. L-MCST kompla jipprovdi sapport sħiħ lill-gvern fuq il-Politika tal-iSpazju sabiex jagħti sostenn lit-Taskforce tal-iSpazju li ġie fis-seħħ f’Marzu tal-2019.

L-MCST kompla jservi bħala l-kuntatt uffiċjali fl-amministrazzjoni tal-Programmi ta’ Qafas tal-UE. Il-Horizon 2020, l-akbar programm tal-R&I tal-UE, se jkun segwit minn Horizon Europe – programm ambizzjuż għar-riċerka u innovazzjoni ta’ €100 biljun, li se jibda fl-2021 u jibqa’ sejjer sal-2027. Malta bbenefikat bil-bosta mill-fondi għall-innovazzjoni tal-UE permezz tal-programm Horizon 2020.  Sa l-aħħar tal-2019, 133 għotja ta’ ftehim ġew iffirmati bil-parteċipazzjoni ta’ 179 entità Maltija. L-ammont ta’ finanzjament li rċevew il-parteċipanti Maltin ammonta għal €25.3 miljun. Bħalissa hemm 61 -il entità li qed jipparteċipaw b’suċċess fil-Horizon 2020. L-aktar benefiċjarju attiv huwa l-Università ta’ Malta li qed jipparteċipa b’46 proġett u rċieva madwar €8.8 million sa mill-bidu tal-programm.

FUSION, il-Programm Nazzjonali tal-R&I, kompla jattira l-attenzjoni tar-riċerka lokali fil-kommunità tul l-2020, b’baġit ta’ €2.2 miljun. Permezz tal-Commercialisation Voucher Programme (CVP) u t- Technology Development Programme (TDP), entitajiet pubbliċi u privati setgħu jesploraw il-vijabilita’ tal-ideat tagħhom u  jingaġġaw f’riċerka kollaborattiva b’mod rispettiv. Il-baġit totali tal-fond se jiġi kkunsmat sa l-aħħar ta’ din is-sena. Wara li tlestew il-proġetti taħt is-CVP b’suċċess, ġew iffinanzjati 12-il proġett ieħor permezz tat-TDP fl-2019. Total ta’ kważi €2.8 miljun ġew kommessi għal dawn il-proġetti li għandhom jitlestew fis-sena 2022.

Il-Kunsill huwa kburi li r-rapporti finanzjarji jirriflettu l-ħidma għaqlija u l-kawtelita’ tiegħu fl-infiq tal-fondi – mingħajr ma jnaqqas mill-kwalita’ tax-xoghol fis-settur inkarigat lilu.

Ir-Rapport Annwali tal-2019 tal-MCST huwa disponibbli għall-partijiet interessati permezz ta’ din il-ħolqa.


This article was last updated on: November 4, 2020