This Article featured on Malta Business Weekly, on 19th December 2022.
Investing in energy efficiency is one of few things which a manufacturing company can do to control its cost-base in the current economic climate.
By lowering its energy costs at a time when energy costs are soaring globally makes both strategic and business sense, especially given that Malta is currently only insulated from global trends by stop-gap subsidies.
While government support for energy efficiency projects is available through grants, these are not always easy for businesses to understand and apply for.
A study commissioned to the Malta Business Bureau and published in August 2020 by the Energy & Water Agency, explains exactly why this is the case. Titled Energy Trends Within Malta’s Manufacturing Sector, the report follows thirty interviews carried out with various manufacturing companies. One of its key findings was that SMEs predominantly are not even aware of what financial support is available to them from the government to begin with.
This, and other feedback, led to the development of the WE MAKE project, which is currently ongoing to provide guidance to manufacturing companies on how to become more energy efficient. Funded by the Energy & Water Agency, the project is carried out by the Malta Business Bureau in collaboration with The Malta Chamber and has seen the organisation of a number of tailored events which include overviews of grants & schemes.
The project is based on other key findings from the aforementioned report. Aside from not being aware of schemes, the report highlights that SMEs generally do not have the human resources to actually apply for the schemes even once they are aware of them.
While half of those interviewed were comfortable with the level of bureaucracy behind schemes, understanding their requirements is nonetheless a time-intensive process, and in manufacturing companies, it is the norm for all hands to be on deck, and for immediate concerns to be prioritised. Companies need to be significantly motivated to take an exploratory adventure into green projects, particularly if they are not certain if their idea qualifies for funding or not.
These human resource pressures are of course more pressing than ever at a time when supply chains costs are increasing, and when manufacturing companies must compete for limited human resources in a stretched labour market. Through knowledge transfer, the project offers to help address human resource shortages and promote a cooperative environment. The WE MAKE project was also designed to both provide guidance on grants and schemes, and to also showcase the energy efficiency projects and best practices carried out locally, to serve as an inspiration for other companies. By bringing manufacturing companies together to share their best practices and explain the green projects they are most proud of, they inspire other companies to do the same. In a sense, it is proof of concept.
The industry report, as well as the project, were showcased at a Eurochambres conference in Vienna in mid-December. The event titled Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum brought together institutional players who used the opportunity to share the various tools, digital platforms and strategies they are employing to help businesses across Europe undergo a green transition.
Malta Business Bureau used this opportunity to go into detail, using the WE MAKE project as a case study on how to implement support on the ground. Grants are often presented as one-size-fits-all solutions, but for SMEs, it takes one-on-one guidance to bridge the human resource gap to understand and apply for grants.
Through the WE MAKE project, which runs into summer of 2023, the Malta Business Bureau, The Malta Chamber, and the Energy & Water Agency are addressing the gap highlighted in the aforementioned market research.
Timothy Alden is Senior Projects Executive – Sustainability at the Malta Business Bureau.