Malta continues to target investment towards developing its life sciences sector and attracting international business interests
In 2019, the life sciences and pharmaceutical sectors were directly responsible for a total 17% of Malta’s gross domestic product (GDP). The pharmaceutical cluster in Malta is a very consolidated industry, with companies operating all along the pharma value chain. Key stakeholders include:
- Active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturers;
- Generic medicine producers; and
- Companies specialising in the testing, batch release, and regulatory aspects of the market.
The cluster is also serviced by various dedicated ancillary product and service providers, including printed materials and printing services, packaging material producers, precision engineering and automation services, and logistics service providers. All this is contributing to the setting up of a new sub-economic niche – the medical cannabis cluster – which will continue to strengthen this important economic pillar.
Malta Medicines Authority
In Malta, the life sciences sector also enjoys the support and services of a highly competent Medicines Authority (MMA). The Authority regulates all pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical activity in Malta. As of this year, the Medicines Authority has also started serving the function of the national competent authority for medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices. The MMA was one of the first eight within the EU to reach a Mutual Recognition Agreement with the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA). Currently, the Malta Medicines Authority is processing six applications for the Licence for the Production of Cannabis for Medical Purposes.
Given its importance to Malta’s economy, the government of Malta is committed to continue investing in and supporting the medical cannabis sector by developing and providing the right ecosystem for this industry. In November 2020, the Government of Malta unveiled the details of a €470m industrial infrastructure investment programme, to be spread out over the next eight years. This investment programme will provide targeted support for projects aimed at expanding and rehabilitating existing infrastructure, as well as the provision of new areas to be allocated for industrial development.
The role of Malta Enterprise
The key goals of the infrastructure investment initiative are consistent with Malta Enterprise’s endeavours to attract research and innovation projects to our country; and significant efforts in this field are being undertaken within the medical cannabis sector. After having received application submissions from most of the major players on the cannabis landscape, this year Malta Enterprise has been focusing its initiatives towards attracting more research-intense projects, as opposed to production-intense projects. It is therefore a necessity to have the right infrastructure and premises in place to be able to house the operations of such projects.
Malta Life Sciences Park
Currently, the Life Sciences Park contains high-end facilities for the chemistry, biology and digital imaging sectors and is occupied by tenant companies working in research and development. The park is strategically located near to the University of Malta, as well as the local General Hospital, which is the main teaching hospital and boasts a specialised oncology centre. The Life Sciences Park is designed to allow companies to commence operations with minimal preparation in order to focus on their core activities and to leverage synergies with other companies, both within the park and across the broader field of academia.
As part of the infrastructure investment programme, the Life Sciences Park is set to receive an investment of €101m aimed at hosting life sciences, technology-related and other knowledge-intensive industries. With the investment, the park will be extended by over 30,000 square metres; five new blocks will be constructed to house research, development and innovation in the life sciences; and facilities aimed at improving the work-life balance of the employees working therein.
Kordin Business Centre
The Kordin Business Centre is another project of great importance in terms of startup activity; and will also be included in the investment programme. Initially planned as a business incubation centre, Kordin Business Centre will be rebuilt with an investment of €14 million, thereby creating a new space for startups to operate. Spread over 10,000 square metres, the centre will be converted into a modern start-up facility. This, together with specific support schemes such as the Startup Finance scheme and other research and development incentives, will enable startups to kickstart their operations in Malta.
This space will not only accommodate new foreign direct investment but will also create thousands of quality new jobs and provide better quality workspaces and environments and more importantly contribute to sustainable economic growth.
This investment reaffirms Malta’s position coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the strongest economies in the EU, registering one of the lowest unemployment rates among the EU27 Member States.
The investment programme, together with the ongoing support and commitment of the Maltese government towards this sector, will ensure that Malta is well placed to continue attracting key players in the cannabis sector to set up their activities here. The Maltese value proposition in this regard is clear; our efforts are therefore focused on high value-adding, knowledge-rich activities, thereby delivering our vision of Malta becoming a buzzing hub wherein new technologies and trends are birthed and given the opportunity to grow.
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