An encounter with Silicon Valley at Microsoft Centre

Author: George Mangion 
Published on Malta Today 22nd June 2017

The dream of having a research and business accelerator in Malta matching that of Silicon Valley will prove to be a true catalyst to anchor our existing manufacturing community and attract new ones.

This dream is an ambitious one as governments in Europe are in competition to attract blue-chip companies and start-ups particularly in biosciences, fintech and blockchain technologies.

PKF has the pleasure and privilege to introduce Stas Gayshan MD of Boston-based Cambridge Innovation Centre and a parallel organisation to MIT university.

He shall visit Malta and give a keynote speech at an event to be held at the Microsoft Innovation Centre, SkyParks Business Centre, Luqa. An extended morning session will showcase an expert lineup of confirmed speakers.

These include Stas Gayshan MD, CIC Boston, Gor Sargsyan, President, Qbitlogic International, Silicon Valley USA, Joe Woods Director, Creolabs, Kenneth Farrugia, Chairman FinanceMalta, Ing Joe Sammut CEO LifeSciences Park, speakers from MCAST and University are awaiting confirmation while the Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat responsible for innovation is also invited.   Interested parties are welcome to attend the “Blueprint for Innovation” session.   This event starts at 8.30 am. For details contact Marouska Camilleri on or +356 21484373.

Why is Innovation becoming the next buzzword subsequent to the election result?  The answer is because both political parties promised in their manifesto to substantially increase investment in innovation.

This task now forms a prominent place in the prime minister’s portfolio. PKF thinks that its efforts to attract a world-class organisation in this field do not come a moment too soon.

Start-ups are fragile and need money, so unless a good venture capital support system is in place they founder and die. Again the best start-ups look for VCs that can plug them into broader ecosystems to provide additional leverage and extend their vision.

Which brings us to the main topic of this article. It starts with a recount of a pioneering trip last year by a delegation from PKF which visited Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, USA to explore links to promote Malta as a potential business accelerator and/or Life Sciences hub for innovators, start-ups and entrepreneurs.

The uniqueness of MIT is in its appetite for problem solving – especially those intractable technical problems whose solutions make a tangible difference. It is no stranger to accolades – rated as the world’s best university in chemistry; economics; linguistics; materials sciences; nanotechnology and astronomy.

It goes without saying that this impressive learning institution is the pride of the American intelligentsia and other advanced countries (such as Singapore) have regularly invested in its development since the sixties to partake of its overflowing chalice of innovation and cutting-edge research.

Another interesting landmark is the Boston-based Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC). This houses more than 1,000 companies in close to 50,000 square metres of premium office and co-working space across 8 facilities, including its expansion in St. Louis, Missouri, Miami, Rotterdam, Warsaw and Sydney.

A number of high-profile companies know their baptism at CIC – including HubSpot, which now employs over 1,100 people, and raised $125 million through its IPO last year, and Greatpoint Energy, which several years ago announced a $1.25 billion deal to build reactors in China.

Additionally, Android co-founder Rich Miner built his unique Google Android software. Rich established Google’s New England headquarters there.  CIC also has a non-profit sister, the Venture Cafe Foundation (this provides a Forum for venture capitalists to scout and help fund new talent).

What is so special about CIC?  The answer is that as an innovation hub it succeeded to attract world-class start-ups which proved very supportive for the US economy through the generation of premium jobs and its high value-added inventions.  Another Key Note Speaker is Gor Sargsyan the President of Qbitlogic International, Atlanta (USA).

This is a US based company specialising in building multi-purpose approaches and tools that synergize the power of artificial intelligence and quantum computing to help humans build and protect software systems across various industries. Gor is currently based in Palo Alto California which is the forerunner of Silicon Valley innovation stunts.

Certainly one cannot ignore the immense contribution that researchers based in Silicon Valley have made towards cutting-edge technology. Many multinational companies have opened their base in Silicon Valley where companies scout for the best talent.

For example, Samsung launched its business Accelerator four years ago located in Palo Alto’s University Avenue and acts as an incubator for software startups.

Inventors mingle with startups who form an integral part of the Samsung Accelerator, discussing projects with venture capitalists and others from the Silicon Valley tech community.

This is called an active ecosystem and basically is what glues together the fabric of innovation and design talents to create high value-added products such as smartphones, robotics, TV’s and advanced nanotechnology.

Back to Malta, there is no doubt that we lack a proper ecosystem so it is recommended that stakeholders discuss and network with experts on formulating a concept for a future Centre of Excellence that can be funded by government possibly within the new ITS campus.

This dream project will be reinforced by Barts Medical school, MCAST, University, AUM and other colleges all acting in unison in attracting talent and can be the birthplace of a nexus of superior minds in the Mediterranean.

Paradoxically it is a pipe dream which started ten years ago in the launching of Smart City complex and now with suave political foresight it can be re-engineered to house a cohort of talented graduates operating in a congenial atmosphere supported by venture capital and incentive legislation.  Government in its last budget had allocated over €75 million to build a new ITS campus in Smart City and this may be an ideal venue to give birth to our own Silicon Valley this time housed at Ricasoli. It is not an easy journey as many countries want to emulate the commercial success of Boston, New York and Silicon Valley (but found that success was elusive).  Readers are welcome to share a taste of Silicon Valley where the expert speakers hope to inculcate a blueprint to bolster R&D.

This enterprise will shine a light to guide us along the shadowy tunnel at the end of which we can underpin GDP growth and improve our competitiveness level. Boldly seeking innovation is not another Alice in Wonderland.


George MangionAuthor: George Mangion 
Published on Malta Today 22nd June 2017
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