R&D expenditure on slow upward trend, but far from EU target

Maltese expenditure on research and development (R&D) reached 0.6% of GDP in 2018, continuing a slow upward trend.

Despite this upward trend, however, Malta is still very far from the 3% target set by the EU for 2020.

National Statistics Office figures show that expenditure on R&D activities increased from €58.7 million (0.57% of the GDP) in 2016 to €74.6 million two years later. Figures for 2019 are not yet available.

Most expenditure on R&D comes from businesses, which spent just under €47 million on such activities in 2018, amounting to 63%. The higher education sector – primarily the University of Malta – spent €26.78 million (35.9%) while the government accounted for the remaining 1.2% (€861,000).

Labour costs represented just over two-thirds (67.9%) of R&D expenditure, followed by recurrent expenditure (24.3%) and capital projects (7.9%). Broken down by sector, the highest share of R&D expenditure was recorded in engineering and technology (41.9%), followed by natural sciences (27.1%) and medical sciences (13.6%).

Most R&D expenditure in 2018 went on basic research (52.2%), followed by applied research (33.3%) and experimental development (14.5%).

In 2018, a total of 2,502 people were engaged in R&D work, including 992 who dedicated their entire working time to such activity. The higher education sector accounted for 1,329 employees, while the business sector counted 1,090 employees involved in R&D.

Last year, the government budget allocations for R&D amounted to €29.9m, an increase of €4m when compared to 2018.