Australia’s $100 billion mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector is world-leading at innovation but ranks lowly at “storytelling”, this year’s IMARC mining conference in Sydney heard.
“We often talk about Australia’s automotive manufacturing heritage, but the METS sector is now a major employer and exporter,” RCF Jolimont Mining Innovation director Charles Gillies said.
“Yet, it’s not telling its story very well.”
Gillies said the communication breakdown generally applied to METS companies’ messaging to customers and the wider community. It meant the sector was underappreciated.
“This lack of storytelling results in poorer outcomes for operators as great innovations and valuable ideas end up not being implemented and ultimately forgotten,” he said.
Gillies could have added the sector often struggled to effectively communicate with investors such as RCF Jolimont, and even through them. Many METS companies and their supporters favour media management over effective storytelling.
RFC Ambrian executive chairman Rob Adamson tried a different tack.
“Scientists don’t want to be entrepreneurs and miners don’t want research programs on their sites, so therefore only 10% of really good science makes it into industry,” he said.
Veteran METS investors Adamson and Gillies were on an IMARC panel charged with examining mining technology investment and how better connection of the two could drive increased innovation.
“The challenge we see with young firms is that coming up with a really good, innovative idea is incredibly hard,” Gillies said.
“Creating a good business is equally as hard.
“We see companies focus on the former at the expense of getting the business right, and that makes it hard to invest in. Nothing ever goes smoothly, nothing ever goes to plan, so having an experienced management team is key to riding those challenges.”
Panellists agreed mine owners and operators who locked up critical information under confidentiality agreements were stifling innovation.
They said innovators needed to understand the size of a potential market, where the pain points of an operator were, and how they could be addressed practically.
“We often see the operators putting their foot on IP by restricting access to everything,” Gillies said.
“It is unreasonable to assume that innovators are willing to invest the time and effort into projects without knowing the size of the problem or the level of competition within the sector.”