II. Research and knowledge transfer

II. Research and knowledge transfer

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Strategic Theme II. Research and Knowledge Transfer

University Strategic Plan 2020-2025

Fostering Research of Local, Regional and Global Significance

'Research and Knowledge Transfer' is one of the Strategic Themes of the Strategic Plan 2020-2025, which sets out the goals and priorities for the University, its faculties, departments, centres, institutes and schools.

In line with its vision and mission, the University of Malta strives to engage in world-class research with local, regional, European and global significance. To achieve this, the University endeavours to strengthen the quality of its research output through high-calibre academics and the provision of an enhanced research infrastructure. 

Main Commitments 2020-2025: Research and Knowledge Transfer 


   Main Commitments

   Activity Plan

  • Attract and retain high-level researchers
  • Reward world-class researchers
  • Invest in the best possible environment for researchers
  • Develop the functions of the Doctoral School
  • Foster international collaboration and cooperation networks
  • Respond to local, regional and global needs and emerging areas
  • Enhance smart specialisations and European competitiveness
  • Identify niches that the University can make its own
  • Benchmark research activities with the best-in-class exponents
  • Increase peer-reviewed publications and citations
  • Improve the doctoral-researcher-to-staff ratio
  • Advocate for increased research funds in line with target GERD
  • Improve access to international research infrastructure and data
  • Extend auditing at end-of-project for the effective use of resources
  • Strengthen and diversify the funding sourced by RIDT
  • Strengthen RSSD and PSO to increase competitivity for funds
  • Streamline procurement and recruitment processes
  • Procure and update infrastructure including laboratories and office space
  • Expand the potential of Intellectual Property
  • Strengthen research consultancy offering
  • Establish standard operating procedures for consultancy
  • Recognise academics engaged in IP and knowledge transfer
  • Strengthen the CR&KTO unit
  • Promote knowledge transfer partnerships and industry collaboration
  • Increase proof-of-concept and start-up funding for researchers
  • Improve social and traditional media strategies
  • Consider a new Malta-centric research publication
  • Position research as a pillar in Malta’s economic development
  • Encourage more students to take on postgraduate research
  • Engage STEAHM communicators
  • Increase internal and external communication
  • Set up Committee for Research Engagement and a Research Integrity Office
  • Strengthen and streamline UREC
  • Introduce studentships
  • Adopt the principles of the HRS4R Charter and Code
  • Introduce a scheme to mentor and support early stage researchers
  • Encourage take-up of the Research Stream to increase flexibility
  • Improve the status of researchers and extend resources
  • Strengthen technical support and improve conditions of support staff
  • Address gender balance in research and administration
  • Facilitate research staff mobility both locally and internationally
  • Promote researcher training on emerging scientific technologies
  • Leverage agility to excel in multidisciplinary research
  • Support efforts for funding from national and international sources
  • Develop business plans detailing expected outputs in diverse research areas

Promote World-Class Research  

While we will continue to recognise the research carried out where career progression is concerned and maintain our focus on access to resources, we will aim to invest in the development of early-stage researchers.

The University recognises the fundamental role its doctoral researchers play in the research ecosystem. We will continue to improve the newly set up Doctoral School by providing the best support for doctoral researchers and their supervisors.

To attract and retain high-quality doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, we will continue to invest in sustainable infrastructure to provide an environment conducive to creativity and innovation.

Smart specialisation plays a fundamental role in enhancing European competitiveness through structural investment in research and innovation. We will continue to participate in the development of Malta’s Smart Specialisation Strategy to ensure that it is aligned with the capabilities of the University’s research ecosystem.

To better respond to local, regional, European and global needs, we will strive to better recognise and respond to emerging areas of interest. The advantage of the nation’s small size means that we can be flexible and have the capacity to identify niches which can be adapted to the local context.

Researchers will be offered the support necessary to access high level research infrastructures and research data. We will endeavour to form part of global research networks in order to foster international collaboration and cooperation with a view to increasing our participation and success in European-funded research.

Research Supporting the University Rankings  

To improve our global university rankings, we must improve our key performance indicators, which are crucial to research, development and innovation. As the University improves in global rankings, it will become increasingly easier to attract the best talent, leading to a positive feedback loop on performance and output. We will therefore strive to increase the number of:

● researchers;

● doctoral researchers and the student-to-staff ratio;

● publications in top peer-reviewed international academic journals;

● citations of authored papers;

● papers indexed in main citation indices for sciences, social sciences, arts and the humanities;

● h-index of academic staff based on their publications and citations.

Meanwhile, the University will continue to benchmark its research activities with the best-in-class exponents to identify areas that require improvement, and which in turn yield better rankings.

Research Funding and Sustainability  

The University will continue to petition local authorities to meet Malta’s stated Research and Development investment target of 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020. In 2017 the figure stood at around 0.54% of the GDP according to the EU Research and Innovation Observatory. We will continue to advocate for an increase in Research and Development funds for the Higher Education Sector. We will aim to pursue collaboration with government and businesses to utilise research funds in the best interest of Malta and the EU, from both an economic and a societal perspective.

We will strengthen the Research Support Services Directorate (RSSD) and Project Support Office (PSO) to help staff compete for funds and we will explore the possibility of establishing an EU office to improve funding opportunities. The RSSD will continue to be driven by a focus on research excellence, as this is the only way to guarantee research funds from international sources. We will seek to leverage local research and development funds by exploiting co-funding opportunities in Europe.

The Research Innovation and Development Trust (RIDT) has been successful in attracting funds from businesses and non-governmental organisations, raising over three million Euro since its inception. The largest share of the funds has, to date, been invested in medical research. The RIDT will implement a strategy to diversify both its traditional sources and the areas in which donations may be invested.

We recognise that the University needs to sustain and exploit capital investments in research infrastructure, including laboratories, with a reasonable operational budget, and hence, we will aim to dedicate adequate funds in this respect. The University will also make its research infrastructure available to the industry at market rates in order to better meet operational requirements. 

Knowledge Transfer  

The Corporate Research and Knowledge Transfer Office (CR&KTO) focuses on the discovery, protection and commercialisation of intellectual property, industry-academia collaboration and contracted research. The latter function is coordinated by Malta University Consulting Limited, specifically when the research contracted is multi-disciplinary and involves coordinating multiple research units. We will streamline its internal processes to make it easier for external stakeholders to contract research services, and hence provide a better service for industry.

The University will strengthen its Knowledge Transfer functions and provide funds to: stimulate innovation-oriented activities, identify, protect and commercialise intellectual property, improve industry-academia collaboration, provide more proof-of-concept and start-up funding, and attract more commercial partners. The setting up of Malta University Investment Portfolio Limited is a step in the right direction, as it allows the University to invest in promising spinouts.

To incentivise academics in declaring and commercialising intellectual property, the University will recognise academics who engage in such activities through, for example, annual best-innovator awards and recognition in career progression.

Research Outreach  

The University will engage professional science, technology, engineering, arts, humanities and mathematics (STEAHM) education communicators to disseminate and popularise research endeavours and results. It is essential for us to communicate the importance of research in support of a knowledge-based economy in Malta. We will, therefore, consolidate the University’s position as a proactive pillar in Malta’s economic development and in the provision of knowledge to its research stakeholders, including the government, industry and society. Better outreach would encourage more students to pursue postgraduate studies and research.

In an attempt to consolidate public exposure through traditional media, we will aim to improve our radio station programming and increase the participation of academics in radio and TV programmes. Recognition of public engagement by academics could be achieved through an annual best-communicator awards and recognition in career progression.

New-media channels could be exploited, for example, podcasts and YouTube channels, to improve the University’s Social Media Strategy and disseminate our research endeavours to a wider audience. The improved outreach services would also serve to improve communication amongst researchers, leading to more inter, multi and trans disciplinary research.

We will endeavour to reorganise thematic research journals into a University series and consider the possibility of producing a broad-spectrum quarterly journal in Maltese. This would stimulate interaction between the University and research stakeholders. At the same time, the University will continue to embrace Open Science and Open Data initiatives as exemplified by its Open Access Repository.

Responsible Research, Integrity and Ethics  

The University set up the Committee for Research Engagement to study how it can best weave the tenets of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) into its everyday fabric. RSSD will support academics in preparing RRI work packages in research grant applications as these could, eventually, become a mandatory feature of EU funding processes.

A Research Integrity Office (RIO) will be established to ensure that interaction between advanced researchers and early-stage researchers, including doctoral researchers and their supervisors, is conducted with the utmost integrity, as enshrined in the University’s Collective Agreement and Manual of Conduct and Procedures for Academic Staff.

We will strengthen the University Research Ethics Committee (UREC) by providing it with the necessary IT and other resources to streamline its functions and interactions with all researchers.

Human Resource Strategy for Researchers  

Besides the pre- and post-award support provided by the RSSD and the PSO, the University will continue to improve the support provided to academic, doctoral and postdoctoral researchers. The Research Stream enacted in the past Collective Agreement will be increasingly offered to researchers who need to focus on their research projects and can ‘buy out’ of their teaching obligations for a period. Academic resources can be extended to research support officers including postdoctoral researchers. The University will encourage local authorities to offer studentships to doctoral researchers and fund postdoctoral positions. 

A scheme could be introduced to allow advanced researchers to mentor junior researchers. The University will promote researcher training on emerging scientific technologies and will facilitate research staff mobility both locally and internationally. The University will endeavour to attract more women to research and research management positions and will promote equal opportunities in relation to gender. 

We will introduce more of the 40 principles enshrined in the Human Resources Strategy for Researchers (HRS4R) Charter and Code, as it works towards the European Commission’s Human Resources Excellence in Research Award.

Research Clusters Concept  

The University is working towards the introduction of multi-disciplinary Research Clusters which would benefit from national and leveraged funds. The clusters would conduct basic and applied research of both national and international relevance. Funds would be provided against a business plan which details expected outputs over a minimum three-year period, such as the number of funded doctoral scholarships, post-doctoral researchers, research publications, intellectual property generated, protected and exploited, and additional external funds generated through the award of national and EU research grants. Twenty Research Clusters could be funded at an average level of half a million Euro per cluster per year and which would potentially result in an increase of 200 doctoral and postdoctoral researchers across all research disciplines.


Strategic plan: research and knowledge transfer information graphic without text