A national networking and brokerage event was organised in Malta on 18 May 2022, as part of the ongoing H2020 Twinning project VENTuRE (a Virtual and physical ExperimentNtal Towing centre for the design of energy Efficient sea faring vessels). The project has the primary aim to increase scientific excellence, research, and innovation capacities and profiles of the University of Malta.
The event served as an opportunity for the key players in the Maltese maritime industry to network with academics, researchers, and the VENTuRE project consortium partners, to gain knowledge, to understand the potential national and international level of funding opportunities, and to realise the importance of the academic and industry relation to promote increased collaboration, human resource capacity and Research & Innovation (R&I) activities. Representatives of Transport Malta, Malta Marittima, Malta Maritime Forum, R&D companies, private enterprises and key players in the maritime industry attended the event.
The event was held at Fort St. Angelo, the bastioned fort in Birgu, Malta. The fort is located at the Centre of the Grand Harbour overlooking Valletta, defending the entrance to the fortified Grand Harbour. Since 1691 the fort has defended the fortress Island of Malta through the many battles, sieges and wars throughout the island’s history.
The VENTuRE project leader, Prof. Inġ. Claire De Marco, representing the project coordinator, the University of Malta (UM) opened the event, elaborating on the project’s aims and objectives. She highlighted the many activities and events to enhance the scientific and technological capacity, raise the research profile and build tomorrow’s maritime professional and academic innovators both in the national and international maritime industry. She also highlighted how the University of Malta has been awarded EU funding through the European Regional Development Fund to develop a virtual and physical experimental tow tank centre for the design of energy efficient sea-faring vessels.
The VENTuRE project is providing the appropriate knowledge and technology exchange with international research institutions such as the University of Strathclyde and University of Genoa as well as with the VENTuRE local industry expert such as Naval Architectural Services Ltd., all of whom already have long-standing experience in operating similar facilities. She highlighted how such a facility will support the government and industry to become a Maritime excellence hub, contributing to international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase competitiveness through energy efficient ship designs.
Further presentations were delivered by Prof. Inġ. Simon Fabri, the University of Malta pro-rector of Research and Knowledge Transfer, and Inġ. Elisa Vella, Industry-Academia Collaboration Manager of the UM Knowledge Transfer Office (KTO), describing the vision and mission of UM in strengthening the quality and output of research through high calibre academics and enhanced research infrastructure including innovation and knowledge transfer in the local and international sector.
The VENTuRE partners Prof. Atilla Incecik and Dr Yigit Kemal Demirel, from the University of Strathclyde, introduced the marine technology facilities and research activities at the Scottish university, highlighting how their experimental facilities are used both as an educational and industrial tool to support the maritime profession and industry. Prof. Michele Martelli from the University of Genoa, described how such experimental facilities enhance the research capabilities and professional capacity by describing an ongoing digital-twin research infrastructure ShIL (Ship in the Loop) project developed by the University of Genoa, and co-funded by Regione Liguira, Italy.
Dr Kurt Mizzi, the Research, Development and Innovation manager of Naval Architectural Services (NAS) Ltd, the maritime industry VENTuRE partner, elaborated on the significance and pivotal role an ITTC registered tow tank facility in Malta would bring about at both a national and international level. He explained the potential impact to maritime research and future technology, how the maritime industry, even on the local scale, will benefit from the use of such resources.
Prof. Aldo Drago, represented UM, as one of the partners in the European University of the Seas (SEA-EU) consortium, co- funded by the EU Erasmus+ Programme. He highlighted the initiatives to put the universities and education high on the EU’s agenda by integrate education and research policy at the European level; describing the efforts to strengthen the links between education, research and innovation, deepen university collaboration and strengthen the strategic approach.
The final presentation of the activity was delivered by Ms Lili Kankaya and Mr Ian Gauci Borda of the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), the national contact point (NCP) organisation for the European Framework Programme for R&I (Horizon Europe) in Malta. They explained potential maritime related EU funded calls under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA), Widening and Cluster Calls.
The event concluded with a networking lunch for the esteemed guests to network and become acquainted with the VENTuRE consortium and maritime industry representatives in the imposing Fort St Angelo surroundings.
Presentations of the networking event on 18 May 2022 are posted in the VENTuRE Website under the data - public repository online.