Promoting Research and Science Education

Malta Council for Science and Technology

By Shereen Shabnam

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Olaf McKay, Senior Director of ESPLORA, an interactive science centre and Omar Cutajar, Senior Director of Strategy, Research & Technical Affairs at the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST). Our conversation shed light on the mission and activities of MCST, which acts as the national government agency responsible for funding research programs in Malta.

In addition to funding, MCST also focuses on science education and outreach through its interactive science centre, known as ESPLORA. Let’s dive deeper into the insights shared by Olaf McKay and Omar Cutajar.

Funding Research Programs
MCST plays a crucial role in supporting research in Malta through its various funding programs. National programs are available for researchers and higher education institutions, providing them with opportunities to apply for funding through regular calls.

These programs are funded by the national government budget and aim to foster research excellence and innovation within the country.

International Collaborations and Networking
Omar highlighted the importance of international collaborations and networking in advancing research and innovation. MCST has established programs with countries like China and Turkey to promote collaboration with foreign organizations.

Additionally, MCST actively participates in multilateral programs such as the Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Mediterranean area, better known as PRIMA, with a particular focus on Agri Food Research.

Horizon Europe Contact Point Network & Policy and Strategy Unit
As part of their efforts to support Maltese researchers, the MCST team manage the contact point network for Horizon Europe, the European Union’s framework program for research and innovation. This network assists Maltese applicants in identifying the right calls for project proposals and provides guidance throughout the application process. It serves as a vital link between Malta and the broader European research community. During our conversation, Omar highlights how MCST’s Policy and Strategy Unit plays a significant role in formulating national governmental frameworks related to research, science, and technology. They develop strategic plans such as the national R & I plan, national space strategy, and national Open Access strategy.

These frameworks provide guidance and direction for the development and growth of the research and innovation landscape in Malta.

Science Education and Outreach
As Senior Director of ESPLORA, Olaf McKay talks passionately about ESPLORA, the interactive science centre. ESPLORA serves as the education and outreach arm of MCST. With over 200 thematic exhibits, ESPLORA aims to bring science and technology closer to the community. It collaborates with the education ministry and departments to include visits to ESPLORA as part of students’ education curriculum.

According to Olaf, through outreach programs, ESPLORA engages families and communities by explaining complex scientific concepts in a simplified and accessible manner.

Looking into the Future
Speaking to both Omar and Olaf and other members of the MCST team was insightful. The Malta Council for Science and Technology, through its various units and initiatives, plays a vital role in promoting research, innovation, and science education in Malta. From funding research programs and facilitating international collaborations to providing science education and outreach through ESPLORA, MCST demonstrates a commitment to advancing the scientific landscape in the country.

With their vision of bringing science and technology closer to the community, MCST is driving a culture of innovation and scientific exploration in Malta.

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