n, this leads the pack with a budget of $23 billion annually. Back home, our investment in technological research and development is a modest one-reaching a mere 0.6% of GDP. Finland spends 3%, of GDP whereas the EU expects a minimum of 2%. Yet, one cannot blame our political leaders to be frugal seeing that spending of millions in such a risky venture needs nerves of steel and foresight.
One may ask – can we afford not to invest €250 million in applied research? Beyond any doubt, one heeds comments out of the national productivity survey pointing to the imperative how to inculcate a new road map conscious of existing pitfalls. If not, there will be patching and piecemeal solutions particularly in our quest for innovation.
Surely, without risking capital, the future of our manufacturing and services industry faces an upward struggle partly due to the double insularity handicap located at the periphery of Europe – not helped with ageing demographics, now aggravated by the deleterious effect of the epidemic.
Incidentally, another drawback is our education system. This fails us as fewer students excel in maths, ICT, and science faculties. Regardless of these drawbacks, this is a wake-up call. The National productivity report makes us conscious of the drive for more applied research and to train the workforce which aided with adequate capital and transfer of technology can compete to match the successes of our competitors.
Ultimately remedying us of this temporary hiatus will be ideas and innovation – the likes of which drove the first industrial revolution in Europe some 200 years ago. This should be our target linked to ways how to continue improving our educational facilities, invest in top research, and to link academia and industry to work together.
Readers may argue that this seems like pie in the sky saying Malta can never dream of being an innovation leader battling with giants. We cannot afford it. Without the necessary funds, how can our start-ups in incubators and business accelerators ever seek disruptive ideas and turn them into improved manufacturing and service outputs. On the contrary, rationality tells us reform is doable. It starts with creating a can-do attitude, fostering knowledge exchange. This acts as a catalyst for invention.
The medicine is bitter and enablers of the economy need strong nerves, good leadership, and weaned on proper funding. The cure involves reinventing the way things are done, collaborating more widely with ecosystems of organisations, cutting dead wood in bloated bureaucracies.
In my opinion, we need to inculcate meritocracy by investing in people of calibre. As stated earlier, innovation starts with smart people, wherever they may be: R&D departments at start-ups, firms from small to large, business accelerators, universities, and research institutes. In a word – innovators.
It is a fact that sustainable growth demands focus and input from a wide spectrum of connected parties. We envy the success enjoyed by tech giants. They bite the bullet – not shying away from problems but harnessing a team involving innovators, decision-makers, visionaries and enablers.