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Malta: A Hub for Innovation & Startups


Malta has been ranked as the fourth-best destination for innovative startups in the European Union (EU), according to a recent survey by the Europe Startup Nations Alliance (ESNA) – an impressive achievement for the small island nation.

The study evaluated 21 EU countries on eight criteria  – standards of excellence – that are essential for fostering a thriving startup ecosystem:

1. Fast Startup Creation, Smooth Market Entry

Entrepreneurs should be able to create a startup within a day or a week for minimal fees.

2. Attracting and Retaining Talent

Visa processes streamlined for startup founders and skilled workers from non-EU countries; programmes to attract EU tech talent back to Europe.

3. Stock Options

Favorable tax treatment on stock options and the ability to issue non-voting stock options for streamlining decision-making.

4. Innovation in Regulation

Policies that support startups with reduced red tape and regulatory sandboxes for testing new technologies.

5. Innovation Procurement

Startups should have equal opportunities to compete for government contracts, with the ability to retain intellectual property rights.

6. Access to Finance

Governments provide funding and policies that encourage private investors to support high-growth startups.

7. Social Inclusion, Diversity, and Protecting Democratic Values

Promoting diversity within startups while protecting core democratic values.

8. Digital-First

Easy online interactions between government and startups; startups should be included in discussions about digitalisation.

Malta performed well in a number of these areas, but it excelled in three in particular, outperforming other countries:

  • Fast Startup Creation, Smooth Market Entry: Malta has one of the shortest company registration times in the EU. This can be a major advantage for startups that need to get up and running quickly.
  • Attracting and Retaining Talent: Malta has several programmes and initiatives to attract skilled workers from abroad. The country’s efficient tax regime, high quality of life, and beautiful Mediterranean climate are appealing factors for startups looking to recruit top Talent.
  • Digital-First: The Maltese government is committed to using digital tools to streamline communication between startups and government entities, making it easier for startups to get the support they need to grow and succeed.


Malta is also home to many incubators and accelerators providing startups with mentorship, funding, and office space. The government is also investing in research and development, helping to create a more innovative and entrepreneurial culture in Malta.

Malta’s ranking as the fourth-best destination for innovative startups in the EU is a testament to the country’s commitment to creating a supportive and dynamic environment for startups. With its many strengths, Malta is well-positioned to become a leading European innovation hub. A Malta-based location gives startups access to a large market and a pool of potential customers. Further, the country has a strong track record of economic growth. 

The Malta Startup Residence Programme (MSRP) was first introduced in October 2022 to attract investment from non-EU nationals. It is a residency-by-investment programme designed for entrepreneurs focused on innovation and growth. 

Eligibility Criteria

Business plans are assessed according to how innovative and viable they are. Eligibility criteria for applicants include: 

  • To qualify for the MSRP, a new company in Malta must have a minimum share capital of €25,000.
  • Startups with up to six co-founders can apply for the MSRP, and companies with more than four co-founders need an additional €10,000 in share capital per co-founder.
  • At least one non-EU co-founder must be a registered employee of the company.
  • Eligible business activities include manufacturing, software development, biotech, pharmaceuticals, eco-startups and other innovative economic activities.
  • Business projects must have new or innovative products or services with the potential for international sales, or use new or improved processes.
  • Applicants must be over 18 and from outside the EU/EEA/Switzerland, hold no criminal record, and be committed to growing their business in Malta.
  • Core employees must have specialist skills and a full-time contract worth at least €30,000.
  • Potential beneficiaries of the MSRP include family members as well as founders, co-founders and core employees.
  • The enterprise must be relatively new and not registered anywhere for over seven years. It must also be independent – not formed through a merger or acquisition of another company – and must not have distributed profits yet. 
  • Applicants will not be considered if they have had previous failed applications for residence or citizenship in Malta or elsewhere.

Applicants will need to demonstrate a tangible presence in Malta by living there and paying taxes, and, along with their dependents, have health insurance and the intention to reside in the country for at least 183 days. All applicants must prove they have sufficient financial resources to support themselves and their dependents. 

Key benefits of the MSRP

EnvironmentMalta offers a business-friendly environment with English as an official language. The island is strategically located in Europe, granting access to European, African and Middle Eastern markets and attractive to international talent.  With a stable economic history and outlook, the country’s small size constitutes a perfect testing ground for innovations within a fully developed ecosystem. And Malta’s low crime rate, rich heritage and excellent health service all support family life, benefitting applicants and their dependents. 

Support: The MSRP boasts a short processing time of around 90 days, allowing entrepreneurs to swiftly establish their businesses in Malta and easily access essential resources like mentorship, networking opportunities, grants, loans and other non-dilutive funding to aid early-stage financing. Malta Enterprise is pivotal, offering startups comprehensive support packages ranging from €200,000 to €800,000. 

Residency: The MSRP offers non-EU entrepreneurs a structured migratory pathway, providing a residence permit initially valid for three years. Founders and their immediate families can renew their permits for an additional five years, while key employees earning over €30,000 a year can renew for another three years. Long-term residency becomes an option after investors have legally resided in Malta for over five years. 

For further information about the Malta Startup Residence Programme (MSRP), please get in touch to find out how we can help.


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