Leveraging METS to build a new technology sector


James Riley
Editorial Director

Australia’s mining industry is among the most competitive and most efficient in the world. It is an area in which Australia has built genuine competitive advantage, and where the Australian economy has benefitted greatly from value creation in the supply chain that services the sector.

That supply chain expertise, known generically as the mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector, has been built over decades. But the mining industry and the METS sector is undergoing the same kind of disruptive technology change that is sweeping the rest of the economy.

The challenge for Australia now is to focus on value creation in the METS sector not only to retain the nation’s competitive advantage in mining, but to create and commercialise valuable and exportable disruptive technologies.

Andrew Charlton
Andrew Charlton: There is a huge opportunity to reconfigure mining supply chains to build new technology

AlphaBeta director Andrew Charlton says the wave of disruptive technologies – from artificial intelligence and machine learning to robotics and remote sensoring – will make the mines of the near future very different from the mines of today.

That’s a huge opportunity for the mining sector. The effective adoption of these new technologies into out mining industry could add more than $70 billion dollars to the Australian economy, according to an AlphaBeta report ‘Staying ahead of the game’ published in April last year.

The converse challenge rests with the METS sector, to build capability in these new disruptive technologies or risk losing a big chunk of the supply chain to providers coming from offshore. The reality is, disruptive technological change in the mining sector is already underway and moving fast.

In this episode of the Commercial Disco, Andrew Charlton talks in specific terms about those challenges and opportunities. If there is one sector across the economy where Australia should be able to build critical capability in new supply chain technologies, it is mining.

The opportunity is to build capability in things link robotics and automation and AI in the highly efficient mining sector – and enjoy the commercial export potential that comes with that – and then to leverage that capability into related areas like industrial agriculture, defence, or even space.

“We know we have a large and competitive mining sector,” Mr Charlton told the Commercial Disco podcast. “And we know that we currently have a large domestic supply chain that supports an enormous number of jobs that deliver into that mining sector.”

“But we also know that the mine of the future will be very different from the mine of the past … [and will be] characterised robotics, data analytics, digital technologies and automation. Those mines of the future will require a very different supply chain to the current supply chain.”

“The challenge that Australia has – and the opportunity – is to shift our supply chain in the METS sector to support the mine of the future,” Mr Charlton said. “If we don’t do that, we might wake up one day and find that we have lost an enormous number of jobs that were needed in the old supply chain that are not needed in the future.”

“We might wake up and find that lots of the services and supply chain supports into the mines of the past that were delivered by Australia are now imported by these mines of the future – imported technologies, foreign automation equipment, foreign software and services.”

“The point is that if we don’t move with these technologies, we really risk losing a lot of the value creation that Australia has always derived from the mining sector.”

InnovationAus will host a panel discussion on Building an Australian Technology Sector to Drive Economic Growth at 1pm on Friday 6 November featuring CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall, METS Ignited chief  executive Adrian Beer, Cicada Innovations  CEO Sally-Ann Williams and Robotics Australia non-Executive director Sharna Glover.

The panel will discuss how Australian businesses, government and research organisations can unlock the intellectual property built within our leading industries and take pragmatic steps to develop more research-intense products and exports for global markets.

The Building an Australian Technology Sector to Drive Economic Growth webinar has been brought to you by METS Ignited.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email or Signal.

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