On October 17th, Expande – the open innovation program led by Fundación Chile – presented a new study of “Characterization of Chilean Mining Suppliers”. To know more details of this research, we talked with Ricardo Morgado, director of Strategy and Development of Expande.

When did you start this study, how long did it take and how many providers did you study? What is the «sample» of the study?

The publication was made based on a survey aimed at decision makers (innovation, development and operations managers, general managers, etc.), representatives of 360 supplier companies conducted between November and December 2018. This is the largest survey that we have been able to perform with a high response rate from the mining supplier companies.

What is the main objective you set when doing this study?

Through this publication, Expande in collaboration with Brinca and the support and commitment of Corfo and Bid Lab, they wanted to contribute, from this new approach, the relationship between the challenges of the industry and technological development, with special emphasis in the innovation capabilities that suppliers have. In addition, this study updates the characterization of mining supplier companies, within the framework of previous studies (2012, 2014 and 2016), adding this time a focus on technology-based companies with an orientation towards innovation.

How would you summarize the characterization of the suppliers of the Chilean mining industry?

Today, suppliers have a great strategic alignment around the importance and vision of innovation, however, there are still gaps around technical capabilities (27% say they do not have the skills) and the results of innovation. Although there is the declaration, a substantive base must still be set up to materialize the efforts made in innovation within the organization.

What are the main conclusions they resolved after the analysis they made?

Although mining is an activity that develops largely in the north of the country, with some spots in the central and southern zone, there is a large concentration in the Metropolitan Region: 60% of the sample surveyed declare having their parent company in this area. This could be detrimental to the development of innovation since strategic decisions are far from the pain and problems of the industry.

The analysis also shows that 75% of suppliers are focusing their efforts on improving industry productivity, while 55% on interoperability issues and 45% on sustainable mining.

Suppliers also indicate that the main focuses of innovation are in internal processes (48%), search for revenue through a business model (48%) and the improvement of the customer experience (35%).

Regarding the challenges, supplier companies are transversally marketing solutions based on sensorization and IoT technologies for smart mining (79%). To a lesser extent, these types of solutions are marketed for environmental impact challenges (46%), occupational safety (50%), energy efficiency (52%), decreased water consumption (40%) and tailings (23%).

Suppliers indicate that the main focuses of innovation are in internal processes (48%), search for revenue through a business model (48%) and the improvement of the customer experience (35%).

The study showed that mining suppliers have a majority innovation orientation to existing and/or complementary products and markets.

For you, what are the most important challenges that the mining industry has today regarding its suppliers?

Today the challenge of the industry is to continue making visible in an early way what their real operational needs are, so that suppliers can adjust the development of their products and services to what they really require and based on current technological trends . To this is added, that they continue to open spaces to share those solutions that have been successful and could be replicable in other operations as they do in initiatives such as Tech Transfer, driven from Expande, and that are committed to technology transfer.

Is Chile a country that is encouraging the development of local suppliers?

Today the mining industry has given clear signs that in order to move forward and make its operations more competitive, efficient and sustainable, it needs the support of an ecosystem of suppliers capable of developing timely innovative solutions that meet their needs in the short, medium and long term. In response to this, many companies in the sector dared to create their own areas of innovation, understanding that it is a key pillar for the growth of the business and the ecosystem in general. They also saw the value of participating in open innovation platforms such as Expande that aim precisely at facilitating the link and making the interaction between the supply and demand of technological solutions more fluid.

Our role is to generate an innovation ecosystem that allows the capacities of companies to be deployed through different links with other actors, thus allowing the objective of generating an industry around mining with more sophisticated goods and services and with a high potential exporter.

What do you think is the main opportunity for suppliers that exists today in this industry?

Today, innovative companies must take advantage of the benefits offered by technologies and direct their development of their solutions based on the trends that the industry needs to incorporate; such as artificial intelligence, big data, internet of things, robot and drones, among others. These are key to a correct understanding of the demand for innovation and an attractive business model for mining companies.