In early 2022 the Maltese government set out to adopt a new Smart Specialization Strategy in line with its commitment to achieve a robust research and innovation eco-system of benefit to the national economic development, researchers and stakeholders.
The Smart Specialization Strategy identified 6 thematic areas with potential for further research and innovation activities for the period 2021-2027:
- Health and Wellbeing
- Sustainable Use of Resources for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation
- Smart Manufacturing
- Marine and Maritime Technology
- Aviation and Aerospace and
- Future Digital Technologies
Transport research is addressed in these multidisciplinary areas. This strategy is part of the government's post-pandemic vision to channel government resources, policy, and industry collaboration to drive innovation for the continuous strengthening of the country’s economy.
The National Research and Innovation Strategy 2020 set out Malta’s R&I strategy for the period 2014-2020. This recognised the progress made over the previous years while acknowledging that there was 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 remained that of 'embedding R&I 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 Malta Council for Science and Technology has launched its national research and innovation (R&I) for 2023 to 2027 for public consultation, which ran until 31st January 2023. This Plan is based on five main overarching goals: governance and priority-setting, enhanced directionality, local ecosystem development for enhanced R&I performance in the private sector, mainstreaming R&I in public policy and strengthening implementation structures.
Transport research is also addressed in the bottom-up research programmes and policy priorities established by the national authorities responsible for transport. The Integrated Transport Strategy Directorate at Transport Malta has developed a National Transport Strategy and Transport Master Plan covering all relevant transport modes (land, public transport, sea and air) for the short, medium and long term for Malta. Key documents are:
The Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST) is responsible for research policy, promoting scientific research, and managing local research funding programme. The Council is the national contact point for Horizon Europe.
Transport Malta is responsible for developing integrated transport policies, developing an efficient transport system for the islands of Malta, and providing an effective regulatory framework for land transport. Back in 2010, this authority took over from the Malta Maritime Authority, the Malta Transport Authority and the Department of Civil Aviation, to bring maritime, land, public and maritime transport under one public body. Transport Malta is financially independent of the Government. Current policies in public transport, maritime transport and aviation are provided by the relevant previous authorities.
Malta Enterprise is responsible for promoting foreign investment and industrial development in Malta, managing various funding schemes. It was entrusted by the Managing Authority for Structural Funds for administering six European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Grant Schemes.
Funding frameworks for transport research are provided by organisations including:
- Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST)
- Ministry for Competitiveness and Digital, Maritime and Services Economy
- Ministry for European Affairs and Implementation of the Electoral Manifesto
- Horizon Europe
Current thematic programmes which are funding research on transport related topics include:
- Maritime Proof of Concept Fund provides research funding to support maritime transport sector innovation.
- Towards a smarter, well connected and resilient economy, a greener environment and an integrated society - The main challenges addressed by the programme are promoting a smarter and more innovative economy, fostering a greener and low carbon transition as well as supporting a more social and inclusive society. A focus on sustainable active urban mobility will encourage cleaner forms of transportation and will promote alternative fuels in road transport. With the support of JTF, the Programme will push for the decarbonisation of the international ports of Malta's mainland (the Grand Harbour and Malta Freeport). This will entail the connection of vessels to onshore electricity power supply whilst berthing, in an effort to reduce the ships' emissions of greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of the air, and marine environment, air pollution.
Historic programmes include:
- FUSION (2014-2020) - supports Research and Innovation with the ultimate goal of promoting and supporting local research and innovation as well as providing the necessary handholding in order to enable researchers and technologists to turn their innovative ideas into a market ready reality.
- Cross Border Cooperation Programme Italia-Malta 2014-2020