Resources tech startups avoiding collaboration are missing out on key opportunities, according to METS Ignited.
METS Ignited – which sounds like the title of an upcoming annual Avengers film – is in fact one of six federally funded ‘growth centres’.
Standing for ‘mining equipment, technology and services’, METS is one area the Australian government has been trying to encourage through a range of programs and initiatives, and yes, money. (What are the other five growth centres? See list below this article.)
METS Ignited is certainly keeping busy – holding two business development workshops in Perth and Kalgoorlie this week, ahead of applications for their Collaborative Project Funds program closing next Friday.
METS Ignited General Manager Industry Engagement, Peter Clarke told Startup News the group’s work is focused on helping businesses understand the importance of collaboration – a concept easily missed by many.
“Australian METS companies, historically, haven’t collaborated too well together, and that’s limited the growth of the sector,” he said.
“I think it’s because companies get involved in their own technologies, they see it as risky, they look at maybe their technology or their IP leaking out, they are very concerned about competitors and other companies seeing what they’re doing.
“They’re not looking necessarily at the global market, they’re focusing too much on the local market.”
A possible solution?
METS Ignited’s Collaborative Project Funds program provides up to $3 million in matched funding to successful applicants, but with one catch – the project must be a collaboration with two or more companies.
Peter said this is growth centre’s attempt at changing industry behaviour.
“The philosophy behind these projects is that we want to accelerate commercialisation of Australian developed technology, but we also want to encourage and facilitate collaboration between METS companies, because there isn’t enough of that,” he said.
“More collaboration between METS companies is going to lead to larger and more capable and more globally competitive METS companies.
“So we’re trying to drive some culture change within the technology development sector for the METS companies.”
Making a difference
Recipients of last year’s round of funding include eMapper, a startup working on software to analyse aerial imagery to map changes in mine site rehabilitation, and Imdex, an ASX-listed company who are developing technology to optimise drilling and blasting processes.
Peter said funding from METS Ignited can mean different things to different organisations.
“We believe that those sorts of projects need to be treated with priority, and if we can make them happen, then they will have a very significant impact on the industry,” he said.
“For the smaller companies, like the Manufacturing Intelligence, the eMappers, it essentially enables that project to happen.
“For larger companies like Imdex … it certainly helps those projects to be treated as higher on the priority level within a company.”
Looking to the future
The 2007 WA Innovator of the Year said although some businesses are still wary of working together, things are moving in the right direction.
“Certainly, there is some concern in the early stages, but once people get into it and realise the value that they’re going to get out of it, it’s like anything in life – there’s no reward without some level of risk,” he said.
“Collaboration between METS companies is on the horizon, and people are actually talking about it, and the fact that we’re providing funding and making it conditional is helping.
“I don’t think you could necessarily say that the whole industry has changed and moved a great deal, but I certainly believe that we’re certainly having an impact through these grant funds on that issue.”
To learn more about METS Ignited, click here.
Feature Image: The METS Ignited Collaborative Project Funds Round 2 cohort, with Senator Michaelia Cash, the new Minister for Small & Family Business, Skills & Vocational Education. Photo: Josh Fernandes.
The other six growth centres are: Advanced Manufacturing, Cyber Security, Food and Agribusiness, Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals, and Oil, Gas and Energy Resources.