Quality over quantity

  • Malta Enterprise provides a comprehensive incentive package aiming to increase the amount of R&D activities in Malta.
    Malta Enterprise provides a comprehensive incentive package aiming to increase the amount of R&D activities in Malta.
  • Malta Enterprise provides a comprehensive incentive package aiming to increase the amount of R&D activities in Malta.
    Malta Enterprise provides a comprehensive incentive package aiming to increase the amount of R&D activities in Malta.
  • Aircraft maintenance work being carried out by Medavia.
    Aircraft maintenance work being carried out by Medavia.

By focusing on attracting high-technology industries, Malta is not only allowing for its limited size, but is eyeing up a role as a future Mediterranean hub in niche areas of advanced manufacturing. Now Malta’s task is to educate and train its workforce for the challenge.

With space at a premium and a workforce of 165,000, Malta is targeting high-value niches in manufacturing as well as developing its ICT infrastructure, and its education and health institutions as a way of attracting investment, creating jobs and growing its economy.

“Malta is small, so every square metre here has an opportunity cost,” emphasises Mario Vella, chairman of national development agency Malta Enterprise. “It really has to generate value.”

The key pillar behind this idea is developing and involving Malta’s education and training institutions, in order to provide the future brains and manpower as the island creates its next generation of industries in advanced manufacturing and research and development.

At the forefront of these efforts is MCAST (Malta College of Arts, Science & Technology) which was established in 2001 to train and re-skill Malta’s workforce while collaborating with industry.

Malta is small, so every square metre has an opportunity cost. It really has to generate value.

Mario Vella Chairman of Malta Enterprise

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“Industry in Malta is advancing at a very fast pace and MCAST has always been part of this development,” highlights Silvio de Bono, the institution’s chairman. “We are producing students who are trained to meet these industry’s needs.”

The announcement in 2014 that the UK’s Barts and London School of Medicine and Dentistry would open a campus in Malta for 300 students was a major sign of confidence in Malta’s ability to attract the very best in foreign direct investment, and a coup for an island that is looking to become a hub for education as well as medical tourism.

Today, around 3,000 manufacturing operations operate in Malta employing around 15 percent of the workforce, with many cutting-edge international players among them such as Abertax Quality, IBG Automation, Trelleborg and Methode Electronics.

For Tonio Zarb, senior partner at KPMG Malta, the evolution of the country’s manufacturing sector is on the right track, as long as it’s relevant to emerging industries. “It would be good if we could see this sector contributing not less than 15 percent of GDP,” he says. “To achieve this, we need to continue building on what we’re currently doing, namely focussing on specific sectors such as electronics and pharmaceuticals.”

We need to focus on specific sectors such as electronics and pharmaceuticals.

Tonio Zarb Senior partner at KPMG Malta

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Construction is nearing completion on the Life Sciences Park, one of Malta Enterprise’s key projects. The new development is being built a short distance from the island’s main hospital, the University of Malta and the newly-built oncology centre, and it is hoped it will provide a focal point for creating synergies and collaboration between Malta’s higher education and health institutions with innovative companies in research and development. The park is particularly oriented towards advanced pharmaceutical research and business development.

Aviation services and manufacturing is another sector which Malta is developing, with the €17 million Safi Aviation Park opening its doors in 2012. It provides airside accommodation for aviation-related industries. Local firm Medavia, which provides charter flights to oil production companies as well as full aircraft maintenance, repairs and testing, has chosen to base itself here. “We are continuing to expand our strategic presence, shifting our focus from North Africa to take in the whole of the Mediterranean basin,” says CEO Rammah Ettir. Meanwhile, Lufthansa Technik has also opened a multi-million-euro aircraft maintenance hub here, attracted by Malta’s proximity – under three hours’ flight time – to most European, North Africa and Middle Eastern cities.

Internationalising Malta’s businesses

In March 2015, the responsibility for the promotion of exports and the internationalisation of Maltese businesses was transferred from Malta Enterprise into a new public-private entity, Trade Malta.

With 51 percent of the new body now owned by the government through Projects Malta Ltd, and the remaining 49 percent by Malta’s Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry, the idea behind this change is precisely so that Trade Malta will be able to reach more businesses and work closer in line with the private sector and its interests.

What can best be done by the private sector, should be done by the private sector.

Joseph Muscat Prime Minister of Malta

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Indeed, at the inauguration ceremony Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat stated: “what can best be done by the private sector, should be done by
the private sector.”

The creation of Trade Malta is also a key part of an internationalisation drive for Malta’s industries and aims to offer all kinds of assistance to Maltese and Maltese-based companies including forming international franchises and joint ventures as well as attracting businesses and trade delegations to the island.
As Mario Vella, chairman of Malta Enterprise highlights, “for us, internationalisation means more than just export promotion.”

The creation of Trade Malta represents a major initiative by the government-owned company Projects Malta Ltd, which works to promote and foster public private partnerships and all kinds of joint ventures. Projects Malta Ltd was also launched in early 2015 is order to bypass bureaucracy and streamline projects through the involvement of the private sector in service-based and infrastructure sectors. “Projects Malta will ensure that good ideas are never wasted and that plans are implemented in a timely manner,” said Prime Minister Muscat at the initiative’s inauguration.


This article was published 19 November 2015
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