The ‘new’ sectors that aren’t new at all

For years of talk on Labour not creating new economic sectors, the first utterance of the PN during this electoral campaign seemed a glitzy grandiose €1 billion invested in new niches.

The details were scant, the vision blurry but political pundits were waiting for the details.

The Opposition leader finally dropped the list of ‘new’ sectors.

It is evident that the PN doesn’t know of the depth of activity in most sectors mentioned.

3D printing

When it comes to 3D printing – several companies have already been mentioned in the news for a number of years now. One of our local companies has developed a professional glue that is used in these processes, and which is exported worldwide.

KYC & AML

When it comes to KYC and AML solutions – a Malta-based American company has recently been listed on the NASDAQ – the first locally based company to list on this pre-eminent tech-centred exchange.

Robotics

Robotics is part and parcel of Advanced Manufacturing which is indeed the largest crop of our current manufacturing sector. Malta is currently hosting companies that also utilise robotics in maritime surveying and health applications.

It is evident that the PN doesn’t know of the depth of activity in most sectors mentioned.

Medical technology

When it comes to medical technology or Med-tech – Malta has its own sectoral conference that has been created and run by Maltese entrepreneurs. Just yesterday on FORBES I read about another international company focusing on fertility technology – again, this company has just opened an RDI centre in Malta.

Artificial Intelligence

When it comes to Artificial Intelligence and related activities – Bernard Grech’s failure to realise what’s around him is even more pronounced. In 2019 Malta has formulated its national AI policy, delegations led by government agencies have attended international AI conferences, Maltese entrepreneurs have endeavoured to produce technologies that have been selected by prestigious international clients, others are working on global ground-breaking innovation, and the University of Malta not only has a dedicated department but also hosts a Danish company specialising in AI in digital games.

Digital games & esports

Speaking about digital games the Nationalist party has also missed the boat on the national target that this administration has imposed on itself – that of generating 1% of our GDP from digital games and esports. This was announced already in 2019. What Bernard Grech’s advisors seem to have missed includes the following efforts by Ministries for Economy and Enterprise: Basecamp – a tailormade hub inaugurated just last year dedicated solely to digital games and esports companies, deals with major esports staple names like ESL, the Playcon event of 2019, at least 2 new digital games studios in the last months joining many others who have been established in Malta for years. Not to mention a bubbling esports ecosystem built around very active grassroots and multiple competitions – and a professional academy for esports athletes unveiled in Luqa last year.

This does not mean that such industries do not merit further support. However one cannot deny all the new support made available to innovative startups in the last few years. Support, especially by Malta Enterprise under the ‘StartInMalta’ brand, has never been so palpable – with funds for business plans, repayable advances for innovative start-ups and soft loans to scaleups.

What might be even scarier is the lack of knowledge that the Nationalist Party seems to possess on local developments surrounding the freshest sectors mentioned in their plans.

Metaverse

In the way he presented metaverse related tech in his announcement Grech gave the impression that there’s nothing of the sort available locally. Yet a quick scroll through Linkedn shows posts about a Liverpool XR/metaverse company that has expanded to Malta in November after being courted by Gaming Malta and Malta Enterprise. Moreover, Film Week in January included a talk whereby local entrepreneurs explained their work in the creation of NFTs and building structures in the Metaverse.

Medical Cannabis

While the PN has thrown many a sector in their wishlist they have also missed some other innovative concepts. One such sector is that of medical cannabis – Malta Enterprise and the Malta Medicines Authority in tandem with the local and international business community have literally built a sub-niche from scratch. We are now bearing the first results with more than three companies up and running manufacturing products for both the Maltese – and soon enough even the German market.

Drones & UAVs

Drones and UAVs. A quick Google search for ‘Malta’ and ‘drones’ showcases that there is quite some activity surrounding this niche. From academies setting up to teach drone flying, to drone-delivery real-life testing and even a European innovator that will bring to Malta the operational hub for their large, unmanned drone that can carry up to 350 kg of cargo at a distance of up to 2,500 km. Ministries for Transport and Enterprise had launched the ‘Malta Drone Innovation Ecosystem’ in 2021 with a focus of ‘Test, Build, Train’.

As the campaign progresses and hopefully Grech is brought up to scratch with the reality on the ground, we should also look forward to better understand the mechanics of creating the 1bn fund: what funds will beneficiaries be able to tap into and how these will be secured; if these funds would be over and above the €800 million which have been disbursed already over the past two years to safeguard local enterprise through COVID-19; and so on.

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