The Malta Independent 15 October 2021, Friday

Success

Owen Bonnici Friday, 17 September 2021, 07:47 Last update: about 28 days ago

This week I had the splendid opportunity of focusing on two international manufacturing companies based in Malta which have at their heart a strong Research and Innovation component: Baxter and Carlo Gavazzi Ltd.

The rationale behind the efforts of these two companies is very clear: in order to have a cutting edge in a highly competitive environment investment as far as manufacture is concerned, investing in innovation is a must.  And these two companies which I had the pleasure of visiting and discussing their research structures with are clearly putting their efforts to good use in this area.

Earlier this week I visited Baxter Trading Malta Limited which is based in Marsa.  This company had just won a few months before the Best STEM Employer Award 2021 in the first ever STEM awards organized by the Malta Council for Science and Technology.

Baxter, of course, is a leading name in the field of manufacturing products for hospitals and clinics around the world and has been operating from Malta for generations.  In all it employs around 600 people, amongst them engineers, scientists, technicians and technologists. 

Out of the total work force, a very sizeable 40% of them work in the Research and Development Department which was set up as a separate entity in 2010.

What’s more STEM occupations are supported with training opportunities, on-the-job experiences and flexible hours permitting these STEM professionals to proceed with their professional development. The organization also actively` promotes STEM careers with students at various levels of education.

To my mind, Baxter is recognized as a company that not only engages excellently with the STEM subjects throughout its day to day operations, but also recognizes their importance as pillars of research and innovation upon which the country’s economic is built.

This organization has been successful locally not only as a manufacturing company, but also for putting its employees’ wellbeing at the centre. Baxter embraced the value of equality in practice, by building a diverse and inclusive team and providing them with meaningful career experiences and opportunities for growth.

It is also important to point out that Baxter also implements a range of policies which reflect its support towards equality. These policies are implemented throughout all levels of the organization, from the leadership team to customer relations. 51% of the total workforce at Baxter is female. Women also make up 47% of management roles.

Their efforts have been recognised with several awards and certifications in respect of addressing work-life balance, applying measures which are family friendly, as well as the promotion of equality paying particular attention to corporate equality, LGBTIQ equality, disability inclusion and diversity best practices.

Carlo Gavazzi Ltd is another company which I had visited a number of weeks ago and regularly produces new innovations which are then commercialized around the globe.   The line of business of Carlo Gavazzi is that of manufacturing of electronic components, such as solid state relays, soft starters and frequency drives for the industrial automation and building automation markets. 

This company, based in Zejtun, exports to markets all over the world and has at its based a strong drive for research and innovation.  So much so that this week, Carlo Gavazzi launched a very interesting innovation, in partnership with the University of Malta, which was in part funded by MCST research grants.

The innovation, called smart single phase motor soft starter without starting capacitor (HDMS), aims at solving a frequent problem which is prevailing in single phase induction motors which are widely used in domestic applications such as heat pumps.  As any Engineer or Technician would tell you, during the switch on of these motors, a large inrush current that can reach levels of 8 times of the nominal motor current can disturb the electric voltage supply.

As a consequence, this disturbance causes voltage dips or flickering to other sources in the vicinity.  To reduce this effect, soft start devices (which is usually based on thyristor semiconductors in combination with a starting capacitor) have been developed.  The size of the start devices usually depends on the required starting torque.

To limit the physical size of starting capacitors, electrolytic capacitors are commonly used but practical experience has shown that these capacitors are the weakest link in the whole design and are susceptible to fail.

Of course, when the starting capacitor fails, the result can be very unpleasant, damaging surrounding installations and causing risk of fire.  Carlo Gavazzi and the University of Malta, through MCST research funding, have come up with a solution to this problem: by a novel single phase induction motor soft starting technique that results in superior motor starting without any use of a starting capacitor.

This technique uses more advanced power electronic semiconductor devices and sophisticated, but easy to implement, control algorithm.  The results of this innovation indicate that this technique could also be used in more single phase induction motor applications that presently use thryistor or start capacitor based soft starters.   

The innovators themselves believe that a product with superior performance and competitive cost would provide a great business opportunity for the production of such devices in Malta, increasing local revenue and employment.   Carlo Gavazzi has also applied for a European patent and undertaken Market research and Cost Analysis results which confirmed the opportunity that can be tapped in the market. 

These two companies service different industries but have one common factor: they strongly believe that research and innovation is a key component to drive forward a competitive advantage over other global competitors.

They also try their best to attract, foster and maintain talent in order to push forward new products and services.  What they manage to do is truly wonderful and companies such as these, which are forward looking with a strong investment in R+I, deserve all the support.

In particular I would like to thank all the people working in the R+I departments of these two companies and elsewhere.  Most of them are young and bright with fresh ideas are eager to innovate and create new solutions.  We are proud of each and every one of them.

Each time I meet these brilliant minds, I see the word success written all over.

 

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