Sudbury’s Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) is proposing a program to address the gap between good innovative ideas and finding ways to commercialize them for the mining industry.
While there is no shortage of good ideas and intellectual property related to mining in Canada, many of those ideas and potential innovations lay dormant and are never adopted by companies, said Charles Nyabeze, director of business development.
The centre is making the case for a new program called the Mining Innovation Commercialization Accelerator (MICA).
“In Canada we can't compete by lowering labour costs,” Nyabeze said. “We can only compete by being more innovative.”
The research and development departments at large mining companies have been shrinking almost across the board, said Nyabeze, because those investments are considered risky and don't immediately improve key performance indicators.
Most innovation in the mining sector, he said, comes from small and medium-sized enterprises like Sudbury-based BESTECH and Symboticware.
But many smaller companies struggle bringing their great ideas to market.
University researchers could develop a new and more efficient way to move material underground, but large mining companies might not even know about it, or take a chance testing the innovation.
Nyabeze said the MICA program would help provide equity funding, micro loans and bring advisory services to small and medium-sized enterprises so they can more easily bring their ideas to market.
CEMI has identified a few barriers to bring innovation to market, including the absence of a dedicated national organization with commercialization in mining as its main focus.
In March, the centre is submitting an application to the federal government's Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research program in asking to receive up to $15 million over five years to support this program. Private sectors partners would match any federal investment into the program, according to the proposal.
By early February, Nyabeze and his colleagues had reached out 65 potential industry partners to help them make their case to government for financial support. If all goes according his plan, the program would launch in March 2016.