What happens when there’s not enough ‘r’ In R&D? In today’s post, Amira Global CEO Dr Jacqui Coombes discusses the importance of research and development.

“As a statistician, I find clarity in numbers. Mathematical formulas create meaning.

The Amira Global ‘formula’ is Research and Development plus Innovation and Implementation – or what we call R&D+I2.

However, as we all know, successful formulas need the right amounts of each component.

Unbalanced formula

Mining industry business expenditure on R&D (BERD) has been declining in OECD countries in recent years.

BERD results from 2008 to 2017 show the total of industry investment in R&D in the United States of America, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Chile has shrunk. Investments in research by industry in these countries has consistently declined since 2013.

It is disturbing that over the last decade, the Australian minerals industry has all but decimated its investment in R&D; in 2010, investment was in the order of $3.2 billion. By 2017, this investment was a mere $600 million (a drop of roughly 80 percent). 

Ten years ago the Australian mining industry was investing 40 percent more than USA and Canadian mining companies combined. Australian mining R&D investment now sits at 20 percent of its counterparts in North America, which over the last seven years itself has halved. 

Conversely, China doubled its investment from US$3500 million in 2008 to $6700 million and over the last decade have sustained their investment, action that is paying dividends in today’s environment. China can now boast 70 percent ownership of all mining industry patents.

Balancing the formula

The fast-paced turnaround in investing in innovation is appealing, and leveraging research and development from allied and adjacent industries is both valuable and essential for our mining’s evolution. 

However, investment patterns in innovation that ignore the industry specific challenges will come at a cost to the industry in the longer run.

Relying on R&D from other sectors atrophies our access to future knowledge and technologies that can underpin the mineral industry’s core scientific and technical needs.

We, as an industry, risk losing control of our destiny; taking our hands off the wheel and leaving the driving to others.

Our role

When I joined Amira Global in 2019 as CEO, my focus turned to serving industry by delivering transformational research and development and providing pathways for implementation and deployment of R&D outcomes.

We are calling on industry to consider the future. We are issuing a rally cry to reverse the trend of declining investment and work with us to help find the solutions to industry’s major challenges through integrated, considered, and revolutionary science.

I will be reaching out to our Members in coming weeks to discuss how the industry can use the tailings opportunity to reassert its leadership in R&D and therefore set the course for industry’s future. I look forward to our discussions.

Dr Jacqui Coombes
CEO, Amira Global