Accelerating Australian innovation

Australia is a proud hub of innovation, but small enterprises with new technology to offer often find navigating big corporates extremely difficult. 

Likewise, large corporate organisations can struggle to take advantage of new inventions due to complicated procurement and legal processes that make it hard to engage with start-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Working to be part of the solution, METS Ignited is getting alongside the Queensland Government to assist mining, equipment, technology and service (METS) companies as part of the Australian Government’s Growth Centre initiative.

This year METS Ignited launched the Igniting METS Accelerator, powered by KPMG Energise, to help Australian late-stage start-ups and SMEs break into the mining sector and grow their business.

“Our focus is to work with industry for the specific purpose of accelerating commercialisation of innovation, accelerating growth and ensuring we develop the workforce of the future,” METS Ignited CEO Ric Gros said.

“As part of that, creating an accelerator that would focus entirely on the METS sector was very appropriate.”

The Igniting METS Accelerator program brings start- ups and SMEs together with leading mining sector corporates to drive greater industry collaboration and commercialisation.

Running for 12 weeks from July to October, participants selected from a pool of applicants are currently taking part in the Brisbane-based program, which follows METS Ignited roadshows in regional Queensland.

James Mabbot, Head of Innovate at KPMG – the company behind the program’s curriculum and operator of other previous accelerator programs – said KPMG was able to bring the expertise it had learnt from operating its Energise program to provide Accelerator participants with access to a broad network of mentors and experts.

“For the start-up participants the program is very much focused on helping them define their value proposition and how to engage with large corporates,” Mr Mabbott said.

“We give them access to those corporate organisations, KPMG and other experts in the area to really help them round that out and prepare them to be able to pitch to and engage with those larger organisations.

“For the corporate participants, it really helps them to think through what they need to do from an innovation strategy perspective in regards to their business; how do they engage with these smaller organisations; what sort of opportunities should they look to run and how might they design a proof of concept or a pilot to actually test the capability of these organisations?”

Mr Mabbott said successful participants of KPMG’s Energise program had gone on to run trials and pilots with these large organisations and secure contracts, and this was the hope for the Accelerator program as well.

A range of companies were invited to take part in the program, including those developing new technologies for preventative maintenance, companies working on digitalisation or automation and major miners looking to collaborate with these innovations.

Mr Gros said the program provided assistance with that which Australia is lacking – commercialisation of innovation.

“The sector in Australia is recognised for having tremendous research, but we don’t commercialise anywhere near as quickly or as well as we could. So we think that is a significant challenge, and obviously start-ups will be impacted significantly by that,” he said.

Mr Mabbott echoed these sentiments and suggested industry and academia needed to work together to drive a solution.

However, that’s not the only barrier to innovation in Australia.

According to Mr Gros, the METS sector struggles to gain access to the right voices within mining companies that will give start-ups an opportunity.

“The biggest challenge is to create a valuable position that will be listened to by the miners,” he said. “The argument is we’re going to see more innovation in the next five years than we have in the last 30.

“From that perspective, every business needs to be innovating rapidly and effectively.

“To innovate we encourage collaboration, and we’re not very good at that in Australia.”

It’s not all about the large miners giving, either. As the big Australian names take on new technologies they will avoid being left behind in the digital age.
Mr Mabbott said when it came to taking hold of new innovations, culture was key.

“The culture needs to be one where people are prepared to come together and collaborate,” he said. “There are so many new companies being born and new technologies available that no one organisation can have all the expertise or all the knowledge.

“You need to be open to experimenting and working with a range of partners, and that means recognising that in some instances you might have to work with small, as well as large organisations.”

In addition to the Accelerator program, METS Ignited has run roadshows across the country around accessing the federally funded $15.6 million METS Ignited Project Fund.

Picture: An Igniting METS workshop in Toowoomba.

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