The sustainable growth and development of jobs are enhanced by research and innovation. Research plays a crucial role in the creation of new products and services that are innovative and which enable increased productivity, industrial competitiveness and increased economic growth.

The capacity of our economy to spend more money will increase the efficiency and capital of our nation. This is why I believe that it is crucial for Malta to strengthen its partnership overseas in research and innovation.

During the past days I led a Maltese government delegation whcih participated in various meetings in the United States with NASA Ames Research Centre, Illumina, Stanford University and SpaceX.

The goal of the meeting at the NASA GeneLab was to strengthen existing partnerships between Malta-based principal investigators, students, and academics and experts in the field of life and space biosciences with the aim of increasing the usefulness of biological spaceflight experiments by facilitating access to research data and experimental materials.

NASA is a global leader in space exploration. During the last two years, Malta has been represented in NASA’s open repository for space biology data by Prof. Joseph Borg. Through this global initiative, students and specialists are able to explore and make discoveries about how life from earth is affected by the conditions of space.

So far, Malta has participated in two space missions by sending a biomedical science experiment to the International Space Station. The first mission was sent  in August 2021 on SpaceX CRS-23 and this year on SpaceX CRS-25.

Both missions, as part of NASA contracted resupply missions, were a success and data obtained from these two missions have been deposited at NASA’s GeneLab via our active participation to date. Together with Prof. Borg, the Maleth Programme and its current missions were also presented during the visit.

Later, we also took part in a discussion with Illumina company which included more in-depth scientific discussions on the use of illumine-based technology.

This is already available and is used to undertake numerous genomic tests for both research and diagnostic purposes. Commercial opportunities and business applications were also reviewed, along with strategies for securing additional direct funding from Illumina for current and even brand-new programmes in Malta.

So far Malta has participated in two space missions- Keith Azzopardi Tanti

At Stanford University we met with Professor Joseph Wu, the president of the American Heart Association, where we discussed the opening of bilateral talks between the two nations and scholarship opportunities for young Maltese professionals to attend Stanford University and complete a portion of their studies there.

Research and innovation, skill development and technical advancement are of utmost importance to multifactor productivity for nations such as Malta. It’s also essential to start closing the productivity gap for those who are catching up.

In fact, research and innovation systems are crucial in boosting efficiency in the combined utilisation of our nation’s labour force and capital, especially when combined with improved institutional and regulatory frameworks and effective market functioning.

Leading spaceflight business SpaceX has accomplished a number of firsts, including the capacity to reuse rocket technology that has been used to go to and from low-earth orbit.

Additionally, it is the first privately owned business to transport people to and from the International Space Station. Malta’s interest in enhancing satellite-based, global data communication was a goal of the meeting with this company. The potential of Malta using Starlink to provide internet connectivity was also discussed as a way to further strengthen and diversify the services offered by the public and private sectors.

Research and innovation systems are intricate ecosystems that require a variety of components to function at their best.

These include a strong public science foundation that produces high-quality outputs together with active private sector involvement in innovation activities, fluid and abundant knowledge flows among research and innovation actors and favourable framework circumstances that support commercial innovation.

Keith Azzopardi Tanti is Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Research and Innovation.

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