Realising the market value of new technologies: The Centre for METS Business Innovation (CMBI)
There is a gap between the technological potential in mining and its current realisation. Fast and successful adoption of technologies such as automation, machine learning, wearable technologies and sensors are a potential mechanism for addressing the sluggish productivity growth in mining compared with other industry sectors. Unfortunately, it is not inevitable that technologies which have the potential to drive value creation in mining will take over the market. There are business/organisational, management and eco-system dynamics which are potential bottlenecks to adoption. The purpose of CBMI’s research is to identify those bottlenecks through evidence-based research and to co-develop, with industry, the management, business and policy solutions which will drive value creation around new technologies. In doing so, CBMI addresses three major challenges for technology transformation in mining/METS.
Mining3, in collaboration with the Queensland Government Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning and the Queensland University of Technology, is providing funding for the Centre for METS Business Innovation headquartered at QUT and with research projects at QUT and the University of Queensland.
First, technologies with strong production economics only inevitably take over the market when their dependence on stakeholders is low (Mitchell 1997), which is clearly not the case in mining. The management of the ecosystem within which mining technologies are introduced is, therefore, a critical element of successful adoption and diffusion strategies (Parker et. al. 2018). The mining eco-system consists of complementors (who produce products/services that add value to the focal technology), competitors (who have economic interests in maintaining existing technologies), the workforce (whose work behaviours and attitudes might need to change), mine site managers (whose operational systems may need to evolve to support the new technology) and communities (that might be suspicious of new technologies and their potential human and environmental consequences). We know from other sectors, such as health care, that the identification of stakeholders who have the potential to influence technology adoption and the management of stakeholder demands for supporting adoption is a critical element of success. For example, the successful management of the ecosystem of clinicians, patients, medical insurance companies, and pharmacies has been shown to be critical to the successful adoption of new treatments (Ihrig and Macmillan 2017). Our research will develop frameworks for METS and miners to better understand the technology ecosystem in order to successfully manage technology transformation across the mining ecosystem.
Second, technology is adopted by mining corporates and mine-sites which have optimisation plans and KPIs linked to well-established operational systems and processes. These are complex organisations which experience high risk to performance targets associated with even short periods of interruption to operations. Like many large and complex organisations, mine-sites experience ‘stickiness’ whereby their management systems and processes become highly path-dependent and difficult to change (Parker and Bradley 2000). They create ‘routines’ and allocate resources (financial, workforce) and establish incentives and rewards to comply with current systems and processes. In addition, mine-site managers, engineers, technical service teams and the broader workforce potentially suffer from ‘cognitive lock-in’ whereby they tend to form networks with like-minded professionals who reinforce established operational practices. Our research enables mining firms and METS firms to diagnose these potential barriers to innovation and the commercial application of new technologies and to develop change management strategies to help them adopt and utilise new technologies and to sustain the value of technology adoption over time. New approaches focus on the role of the leadership team in dis-incentivising existing ways of doing things (stopping practices which support old technologies or systems), creating incentives and rewards for new systems and technologies, identifying and giving authority to technology or system champions who can mobilise support from others, collecting and disseminating information that demonstrates the value of the new technology and system (creating legitimacy for change) by committing resources (time, financial) and establishing test cases (Todnem 2007).
Third, industry associations and government organisations play a role in building the capabilities of mining and METS firms, through investment in R&D and skills development as well as facilitating coordination and alignment of business decisions across the value chain. Policy organisations, by facilitating dialogue and collaboration, can create greater certainty for businesses regarding the actions of their suppliers, customers and complementors and in terms of the available resources (technology and workforce) to support their investment decisions. Drawing on successful international examples of policy to support METS industry development internationally and from other industry sectors, we will work with the Queensland Government, also a funding partner of the CMBI, to identify improved policy mechanisms to drive METS industry development.
The aim of CMBI is to use business and social science research techniques to identify the mechanisms that technology developers, managers in METS and mining firms and policy organisations (government and industry associations) can use to better support the realisation of market value from new technologies in the mining sector. We draw on insights from other industry sectors and international contexts, data we collect through fieldwork in mine-sites and interviews and observations of METS firms and key mining and METS stakeholders. We analyse that data/information in systematic ways which enable us to identify patterns from which we generate explanatory models. Our models identify the barriers (or bottlenecks) and antecedents (or drivers) of mining and METS innovation. We then work with industry and government to co-develop management and policy solutions to better support technology transformation in mining and METS.
To inquire about collaborative research opportunities or the possibility of participating in our research, please contact CMBI Centre Director, Professor Rachel Parker (firstname.lastname@example.org).To join our mailing list please send your contact details to CMBI Centre Manager Trina Robbie email@example.com.
1 Mining3, in collaboration with the Queensland Government Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning and the Queensland University of Technology, is funding the Centre for METS Business Innovation headquartered at QUT and with research projects at QUT and the University of Queensland.
2 ABC, Cat. No. 5260.0.55.002 – Estimates of Industry Multifactor Productivity, 2016-17; http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/5260.0.55.002
Rune Todnem By (2007) Organisational change management: A critical review, Journal of Change Management, 5:4, 369-380
Martin Ihrig and Ian Macmillan (2017) How to get ecosystem buy-in, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2017.
Ronald K. Mitchell, et al. (1997) “Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Identification and Salience: Defining the Principle of Who and What Really Counts.” The Academy of Management Review, vol. 22, no. 4, 1997, pp. 853–886.
R. Parker, S. Cox and P. Thompson  Financialization and Value-based Control: Lessons from the Australian Mining Supply Chain Economic Geography, 94(1): 49-67
R. Parker and L. Bradley (2000) ‘Organisational Culture in the Public Sector: Evidence from Six Organisations’ International Journal of Public Sector Management 3(2), 124-141