By ADELLE LARMOUR
Innovation and commercialization is alive and well in the mining supply sector across Canada, according to a published survey performed by the Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export (CAMESE).
A June 2007 survey sent out to 231 ‘regular’ CAMESE member firms had its results recently published confirming that mining suppliers are not only innovative, but they are marketers of their innovations. The information, which did not previously exist due to the complex role of mining supply companies, is important information for the mining and mining supply sector in its advocacy, says CAMESE’s general manager Jon Baird.
Based upon the responses, the sample is accurate 19 times out of 20, representative of the CAMESE membership whose total employment is about 11,600 people. Among these, as stated in the report, are about 1,500 who “work in Canada on the development of new products and technologies for the mining industry, from pure research to production engineering” – the innovators. Another 1,000 individuals “work on market research, marketing and selling of products and technologies to be introduced in the future or introduced within the last two years” – the commercializers.
CAMESE began this survey to show that mining suppliers are an integral part of the mining innovation chain, active in research and development, and commercialization. Also, they wanted to find out whether or not a program dealing with patents and intellectual property could be struck through member company Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, and Val Cottrill, a partner in the firm who is a mining engineer, lawyer and patent agent.
Needless to say, the results were not disappointing.
“I’ve spent most of my career in mining supply and this is just about right on with my experience in terms of the numbers,” Baird says. Even the slightly higher percentage of innovators (13 per cent) than commercializers (nine per cent) was in line with what he expected.
“I’ve usually said that you spend about an equal amount on both of those activities,” he says. “A lot of the owners/founders of mining supply companies are very technically innovative people. They’ve worked in the mines, get an idea for a product and how to better serve the mining industry, and they go ahead and do it. Then they think about selling and marketing afterwards,” which Baird adds is one of the aspects CAMESE helps their members with.
The survey also indicated 68 per cent of the companies had received patents or had registered other types of intellectual property protection.
“I think it is healthy,” Baird says. “It shows there is a lot of innovation…and people are using those patents to protect themselves.” Yet further questions in the survey indicated they may have trouble balancing the cost in terms of time, money and what is required to get a patent, with the benefit, which is the protection.
Consequently, CAMESE has already published information about the benefits, procedures and costs of obtaining patents in their biweekly bulletins sent out to the members.
Now that Baird has the numbers to support the important role mining supply companies play in innovation and commercialization, more consideration may be given to this important sector with respect to government support and funding.
“People don’t think of the mining industry as being innovative,” he says. “I’m trying to put mining suppliers front and center to be sure they are integrated into the programs that may be put forward to enhance innovation and commercialization in Canada.”
By ADELLE LARMOUR