National Research & Innovation Strategy

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Malta`s National Research and Innovation Strategic Plan 2023-2027

As a key driver of economic growth in the 21st century, research and innovation are at the heart of Malta’s plan to be fit for the future. The nation itself has a relatively short history of R&I policy drafting and execution but, following a review by the European Commission that concluded in 2019, this Administration now looks forward to building on the review to augment Malta’s R&I ecosystem. To that end, the National R&I Strategic Plan 2023 – 2027 seeks to lay the foundation for a revitalised and well-governed R&I network built on both short-term priorities and long-term vision. With the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic and rising geo-political tensions, the principle of pro-active flexibility was also embedded in the Plan to ensure a reactive and dynamic approach to unforeseen events. The Strategic Plan itself was built on five overarching goals:

  • Goal 1: Strengthening R&I Governance and Priority-Setting

This priority seeks to consolidate Malta’s relatively fragmented R&I ecosystem under a rationalised and efficient governance model with both political ownership and technical expertise being prioritised.

  • Goal 2: Local Ecosystem Development

This aspect of the Strategic Plan aims to augment the ecosystem, enhancing the presence of the private sector and incentivising strategic internationalisation.

  • Goal 3: Enhanced Directionality through Missions and Smart Specialisation

Through this pillar, the Plan aims to embed a sense of problem-solving directionality into the Maltese R&I framework, built on existing national priorities and frameworks.

  • Goal 4: Mainstreaming R&I in Public Policy

As part of a broader push by Government, this goal seeks to further bridge together R&I actors with Public Administration by enhancing the role of scientific and technical knowledge in policy drafting.

  • Goal 5: Strengthening R&I Implementation Structures

This final pillar outlines the plan to upscale the entities responsible for both the execution of this Strategic Plan and of the strengthening of Malta’s R&I ecosystem.

On the 22nd of December 2022, the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) launched the draft version of the National R&I Strategic Plan 2023 – 2027 for Public Consultation. Several key stakeholders from Malta’s R&I ecosystem were present with a technical presentation by MCST’s directors disseminating the vision and steps forward for this Plan. Following the closure of this public consultation phase, a number of amendments were made with regards to incorporating stakeholder feedback and perspectives into the vision of the document.

The final version of the Strategic Plan was adopted by Cabinet on the 8th November, and launched by means of a national public event on the 20th March 2024. The Strategic Plan may be found here 

On February 18, 2014, Cabinet endorsed Malta’s new National Research and Innovation Strategy 2020. This document sets out Malta’s research and innovation strategy for the forthcoming seven year period. Recognising the progress made over the last years and acknowledging that there is still a way to go in achieving the objectives set out in the 2007-2010 R&I Strategic Plan, the ultimate goal of this Strategy remains that of embedding research and innovation at the heart of the Maltese economy to spur knowledge-driven and value-added growth and to sustain improvements in the quality of life.

The Mission of this strategy is to provide an enabling framework for achieving this vision, building on past achievements as well as lessons learnt along the way. This Strategy and its implementation do not, by themselves, provide all the building blocks of a knowledge-based economy but are a crucial step towards this. The achievement of this stated Mission depends on putting in place the necessary ‘building blocks’, identified as the three goals of: 

1. A comprehensive R&I support ecosystem – The achievement of this goal would be an important building block towards Malta’s transformation to a knowledge economy as it would facilitate innovative ventures to take shape and flourish. This support ecosystem would be independent of thematic specialisations, thus providing a baseline level of support for all players and embedding flexibility to support any new specialisation areas which emerge over time.

 2.  Investing in a stronger knowledge base – The achievement of the second goal is to be seen as a longer-term investment, the fruits of which may or may not be reaped within the timeframes of this Strategy. This goal balances the overarching orientation of this Strategy towards close-to-market R&D and innovation by building capacity and excellence in the earlier stages of the R&D process. Given the magnitude of investments required and resource limitations, priority should be focused on identified thematic specialisations.

 3. Smart, flexible specialisation – This goal targets the establishment of a knowledge-based economy by prioritising its achievement in a number of thematic areas. It is a very innovation-oriented approach which however does not exclude the involvement of research activities. In addition, the prioritisation of long-term investments in a stronger knowledge base in identified thematic areas serves to embed stronger foundations over the longer term, thus consolidating the knowledge base of these thematic areas.

The Strategy also includes the mechanism for communication management and co-design of implementing measures among different stakeholders, knowledge-based policy design as well as monitoring and review. To this end, the Strategy identifies a set of seven indicators (balanced between input and output indicators) to monitor performance in implementing the Strategy effectively. This Strategy will be complemented by a separate, rolling R&I Action Plan involving all relevant stakeholders to identify, agree and implement measures addressing the Strategy’s principles while ensuring clear ownership and budgetary sources, coherence and value for money.


National RI Strategy 2020 – June 2014 

In June 2014, the Malta Council for Science and Technology launched the National Research and Innovation Strategy 2020, which set out Malta’s strategy for the forthcoming seven-year period. A conscious decision was made to separate the strategic vision from the rolling R&I Action Plan, which aims to implement the action lines identified in the Strategy. Hence, this document will be establishing a suitable policy mix, and the integrating the monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. The Action Plan is a living document, and will be regularly updated. It will evolve according to the outcomes of the monitoring and evaluation process.

In 2014 a consultation process was launched to identify which measures already in place or in the pipeline, address the action lines of the strategy. The process involved an initial online exercise where feedback was requested by email, followed by meetings with over 20 entities and ministries. Thereafter a list of measures that could potentially address and implement the strategy was drawn up. The process was carried out 3 times in total from February 2014 to February 2015, to ensure that the latest information was available, that the ministries were properly engaged, and also to give time for the stakeholders to develop their plans further and concretise their measures, timelines and budgets.

As part of the monitoring mechanism being set up to oversee the implementation of the Strategy and roll out of the Action Plan, two groups were set up: the Steering Group and Core Group. The groups started meeting since the inception of the drafting of the Research and Innovation Action Plan. The Core Group meets at Permanent Secretary level and is responsible for deciding on priorities for action as well as timeframes, resources and budgets on the basis of recommendations made by the Steering Group. The Steering Group meets at the level of Heads of Public Entities and Organisations or their high-level delegates.

In the last quarter of 2014, the Steering Group and Core Group started meeting regularly, to begin filtering the measures and identifying those that could stimulate R&I and help achieve the 7 ambitious targets set in Chapter 9 of the Strategy. In parallel, several informal meetings with civil society and the private sector were held, mainly to remain informed about developments in the sectors and keep all stakeholders engaged in the process. MCST received nearly 200 suggestions in total from the ministries and entities, which through the established governance and monitoring system, were narrowed down to 53 initiatives.

In 2015 MCST organised another round of focus groups as part of the ongoing entrepreneurial discovery process which engages academia, business, government and civil society as part of the Smart Specialisation Strategy. These focus groups aimed to identify key stakeholders, the value chain of the projects, and complementarities between measures. The process has enabled further sub-specialisation and the identification of Malta’s niche areas in the European and/or internationalisation arena. Through the assistance of the European Commission’s Policy Support Facility, MCST received recommendations on key performance indicators and guidance on how to set up a monitoring mechanism for the Strategy’s implementation. MCST is presently going through the preparatory phase of setting up the mechanism and will continue working in 2017 on its setting up and implementation. Malta’s R&I Action Plan was approved by the European Commission in 2016.

The main aim of this report is to monitor the implementation of the actions in the National Research and Innovation Strategy 2020 and the R&I Action Plan 2015-2020.  A comprehensive set of indicators covering the three Pillars and Action Lines were established with the support of the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility (PSF). Data was collected from NSO, Eurostat and directly from stakeholders.

 A set of seven headline indicators was established to monitor the overall inputs and outputs  of the national R&I system. This report compares the latest available figures with the 2020 targets for these indicators. The target for number of PhD holders as a percentage of active population has been achieved  and the data collected on the number of researchers (expressed in full-time equivalents, FTE) shows an upward trend towards achieving the 2020 target. The figures for employment in knowledge-intensive activities as a percentage of total employment also show an upward trend, however data trends for all other indicators have faltered.

Several recommendations are made regarding the indicators at Action Line level since data confidentiality and the restructuring of data sources (such as the Community Innovation Survey) were major obstacles in the data collection process. This was especially noted for the Smart Specialisation Areas. These obstacles made it difficult to reach robust conclusions and improvements to the system will be considered for future reports.

Following support received through the Horizon 2020 Policy Support Facility on the National R&I Strategy 2014-2020. The first monitoring report was published in 2018, covering data collected during the 2014-2018 implementation period, and the current report is a continuation covering the period 2019-2020. It is also the final monitoring report that will cover the implementation of the National R&I Strategy for 2014-2020.

This article was last updated on: April 1, 2024