The Malta Independent 14 April 2024, Sunday
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PKF joins US experts to accelerate local innovation

Sunday, 25 February 2024, 08:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Writteb by Miriam Sultana

For many years, Malta Enterprise has focused on attracting leading startups and investors to Malta, while engaging with a wider group of innovators through promotion.

Following two long years of Covid-19, it is now opportune for government to accelerate support for buttressing the local innovation ecosystem by implementing policies that attract foreign investors and entrepreneurs and intensifying R&D to continue the wealth of local IP. The startup ecosystem in Malta is attractive to both local and foreign entrepreneurs for a wide range of reasons: simple incorporation, low costs for startups, an appealing tax regime, assisted factory programmes, skilled workers and the possibility of developing indigenous tech sectors.

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The ecosystem in Europe developed at a fast pace in recent years, due to a series of government incentives and support, plus a safe and reliable business climate. Introducing Cambridge Innovation Centre (CIC) as a worldwide innovator consisting of captains of industry is a wise move by PKF. Founded 25 years ago in Kendall Square, Cambridge, CIC now operates more than 100,000 SM of shared workspace, wet labs, and event space in the US, Europe and Asia and convenes a worldwide community of approximately 650,000 innovators.

Since inception, over 10,000 companies have called CIC home, collectively raising more than $17bn in venture capital funding. Its innovation campus is typically a large, high-end facility at the heart of an innovation district. The campus acts as a centre of gravity, driving innovation and building community through curated activation and a trusted circle of foreign entrepreneurs.

These drive venture and idea creation to build extraordinary innovation environments in cities around the world. Their high-touch services aid disruptive thinking, instil an innovative mindset, develop strategy and deliver high-impact activities. Over the years in several countries CIC's team of thinkers and innovation builders fostered collaborative and future-focused outcomes. Captain's is the professional services arm of CIC, a leading creator of dense, impactful innovation ecosystems in cities around the world. CIC's mission is to generate new opportunities through innovation by developing multi-faceted communities that support change-makers on their business journeys.

What is different in CIC's hubs that differ from ones already in operation in Malta? Such dedicated hubs are the anchors of innovation campuses, provide shared resources for innovators, facilitate intense interactions and co-locate specialised amenities. The hubs act as key concentrators and catalysts within the innovation ecosystem. Why did similar hubs in Malta fail to reach international standards? The answer is mixed. PKF has actually visited such hubs in Boston, USA and Rotterdam, Netherlands. In the case of the new Rotterdam hub, PKF was honoured to be accompanied by the Minister of Economy, Silvio Schembri and a high official at the ministry. Both were impressed by the success and business opportunities that Malta could seize.

The motto of such success is that CIC believes its hubs to be seen as neutral and apolitical, not associated with any one state corporation. This builds a big tent where a variety of entrepreneurs and organisations feel welcome. Orchestrated properly, the leading players in the industry will lean in as partners, with funding and presence at globally-relevant hubs. A strategic, activated innovation hub creates a powerful engine that concentrates activity. This becomes the foundation for the innovation ecosystem because proximity and connection are essential for trust and collaboration and sharing space with other strong entrepreneurs creates a powerful environment that attracts inward investment.

Recently, PKF officials approached Malta Enterprise to encourage it to further develop Malta's innovation ecosystem by activating PKF's new Academy space and launching a CIC targeted hub in Malta. PKF hopes this will help Malta Enterprise's stated goals of attracting foreign direct investment and facilitating the growth of high-tech companies in three phases.

 

Phase 1: Vision Setting (3-6 months)

Visioning Workshop(s) for Strategic Actions: Facilitated workshops with curated leadership to coalesce around a vision for Malta's innovation ecosystem and define strategic focus areas for an industry hub.

Strategic Planning and Ecosystem Mapping: An assessment phase culminating in an ecosystem map to understand key stakeholders (for example, public and private partners, tenants) in the ecosystem, build partnerships and identify gaps. This will act as the foundation for new investor development and co-location within Malta.

 

Phase 2: Framework Development (6 months)

Playbook Creation: We can develop a bespoke guide to build the industry hub, launch a successful operating platform and identify key leaders.

Partnership Development: With a focus on identifying partners to provide foreign direct investment, this work will centre around international partnership development, stakeholder engagement and recruitment (utilising the ecosystem map created in Phase 1, coupled with targeted workshops and outreach).

 

Phase 3: Accelerating Stakeholder Engagement (3-6 months) 

Launch of Industry Hub and Convening of All Partners: A headline event to launch the industry hub and bring together national and international partners with brainstorming sessions that centre on core goals for the innovation ecosystem and industry hub. This event will act as both an opportunity to announce the industry hub and new innovation campus while bringing existing and new business angels to Malta. Captains will work with government stakeholders to align their involvement with the hub in a way that optimises future success. In the visioning phase, CIC will scaffold concepts and opportunities based on scale and scope. This can include services related to building an innovation hub to attract innovators and investors to Malta, activating PKF Malta's new startup academy. Captains proposes a facilitated workshop with key stakeholders to establish a range of ideas for this goal. This two-day workshop ideally would have 7-15 participants, and can be modified to meet the needs of specific stakeholders. The participants would include Malta Enterprise, PKF Malta, Chamber of SME, Chamber of Commerce, IFSP, University FEMA and other select partners that are identified. External experts will plug into the engagement and, along with staff, guide the stakeholders throughout, creating continuity along with opportunities for additional conversations and education. Before the end of the workshop, the facilitator will work with the stakeholders to develop near-term action items to ensure that the ideas that have been generated by the workshop can take root and grow. Finally, this workshop will serve multiple functions, and it's optimal that this event occurs before more detailed mapping and partner engagement. By aligning the targeted stakeholder team around ideas and visions, future events can focus on greater network alignment and generate far-reaching attention around Malta.

 

Miriam Sultana is a director of Advisory at PKF Malta


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