Written by Adelaide Grixti
Applied Research is a pragmatic method for scenarios where a specific problem needs to be solved. One way of conducting applied research consists of first discovering and defining problems from various business or industrial areas and then test-implementing prototypes of solutions through proof-of-concept (POC) projects.
This makes it a problem-driven method to discover solutions. The knowledge generated from applied research is usually limited to the research problem at hand, and the findings cannot be generalized and applied to different problems.
This method of research differs from fundamental research also known as basic research, which is instigated by curiosity to acquire knowledge for knowledge’s sake.
In late 2020, MITA set up a new Applied Research function responsible for kick-starting innovative proof-of-concept projects (POCs) that solve existing and practical business problems, and promote the practical take-up of emerging technologies, by both public administration and MITA as the beneficiaries.
Through its Applied Research initiative MITA’s role is to select and propose problem areas to research through a POC, and then provide overall project direction to keep collaborators on track with respect to the practical goals set for them.
MITA is collaborating with the University of Malta and MCAST as academic institutions and/or technology partners to provide their knowledge, competences and resources needed to experimentally develop the prototype and test it in an authentic business setting.
MITA together with Government is investing in this, to increase the practical take-up of digital technology for the benefit of citizens and businesses, as well as increase demands for applied R&D skills and expertise. It also strengthens the beneficiary’s business case and mitigates the risks associated with new technologies, through evidence-based inputs when procuring innovative solutions, or improving current ones.
The importance of pursuing Applied Research projects lies in what makes problem driven solutions attractive. They allow for innovation and the incorporation of emerging technologies as a main instrument for the solution. This is how the Applied Research initiative links with the Emerging Technologies Lab within MITA. Where relevant and necessary, MITA is making its Emerging Technologies Lab available as an additional resource to these applied research projects, given the resources and space available.
Students who are working on the development of a prototype or other projects such as dissertations with a specific interest in emerging technologies, and require equipment to enable such development, can make use of the resources offered by the Emerging Technologies Lab by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lab is also an ideal platform where staff from Public Administration can can familiarise themselves with such technologies through seminars, workshops and customized training programmes.
The Applied Research initiative within MITA is still experimental. Notwithstanding, the fact that this function has only been set up for a couple of months, the responsible unit already has three initiated, on-going applied research projects.