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1 January 0001 4 min read

CSIRO’s purpose to solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.

Dr Rob Hough, Director CSIRO Mineral Resources ©  Ian Dickson

One challenge is ensuring Australia has a world class, sustainable resources sector that can deliver global development and provide the minerals and products required for an energy transformation across the world.

To solve this and stay competitive, the process of innovation has to speed up. Technologies and concepts need to be deployed and applied into the market for impact as soon as is practicable.

This requires a flexible and varied approach. But the value created can be substantial.

In this issue of Resourceful, we focus on how CSIRO is creating new companies and delivering technology transfer, with examples of how we are working with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to take on new technologies and concepts.

The mineral resources industry in Australia is often thought of as the realm of large mining companies.

But our resources related technology sector is equally world renowned and often envied. It employs hundreds of thousands of people and creates hundreds of billions of dollars in value, including through exports every year.

It is a sector playing a central role in keeping the resources industry competitive and will need to develop even further for the industry to achieve its sustainability goals and to build the expertise and talent for the future.

In mineral exploration, the junior companies are often the engine room of how this is done in Australia.

These are often small with lean balance sheets and staffing, but with the hard task of opening up new search spaces and discovering the mineral resources that the world demands.

We have described in previous issues of Resourceful the challenge faced in exploring through the cover right across Australia, of ‘seeing’ through it and identifying the far-field footprints of hidden deposits.

In Riches in the regolith we provide an example of how using that cover can be very useful for companies seeking to explore beneath it.

CSIRO has a long history in regolith research. This means we are well placed to support small companies in how they undertake their work. We can advise on the concepts and tools they can apply and help find ways to improve the potential of success through access to our expertise.

We also bring small companies together. This can help de-risk the development of a new approach or technology, scale their research and development (R&D) investment through collaboration and speed up the process of that technology being developed and deployed.

Our indicator mineral partners is one such example. We have a current project with a range of companies on-board, looking to ‘see’ the footprints of mineral systems recorded in individual mineral grains.

The companies join together and, as the project proceeds, can benefit from R&D as it is being developed.

CSIRO can deliver maximum impact across a section of the industry by having multiple partners.

This leads to more rapid technology transfer, enables techniques to be tested in practice more quickly, and assists us to build tools that are useful, usable and used.

One such tool is Ultrafine+, a method we have developed and licensed to LabWest in Western Australia, which is now added to their product suite.

Our story about Ultrafine+ and LabWest describes how the company use the method to deliver to many companies through their service offering.

In a short time LabWest has grown. They have more employees and are building new infrastructure.

Real impact is also being seen by the industry through new insights being revealed using this method as it is applied in practical mineral exploration.

Mineral explorers can become mining companies and mineral exporters.

Increasingly we are using innovation to support Australian industry to grow in the area of product manufacturing, with the value-added products being derived from minerals.

One example which highlights our opportunities to build new technology companies is Magnium and Magsonic.

Magnesium is one of the critical minerals recognised as important in global supply chains.

New company Magnium was created to take CSIRO’s Magsonic (a magnesium production technology) forward, to pilot the method towards more advanced technology and market readiness, and explore different market opportunities where it could be applied.

Magnium is now growing its business with a goal to provide for more sustainable production of the metal.

It is well known that R&D can lead to value creation for SMEs. Yet these companies also need assistance to access that R&D and learn what is available to them. R&D for SMEs provides some examples of how we seek to help smaller companies do that.

CSIRO partnering with small companies, or indeed creating whole new ones, is leading to the creation of new jobs, new investment in local economies and delivering value to all involved in the innovation process.

The translation of technology is delivering new tools to drive success in exploration, in mining and in processing, including in value-adding to our mineral products.

Continuing to advance the pace at which our science and technology is used will only benefit the industry to be sustainable and competitive, while also providing jobs and growth in our technology and manufacturing sectors.

The sustainable resources challenge is worth tackling. As I’ve written before, Australia’s resources are well positioned to deliver to the global energy transformation.

In this issue we have showcased some examples of how this will not just be done through our major mining companies, but also by us being world class in our small- to medium- sized technology sector; one that can feed the industry the solutions it needs while being skilled with the very best expertise to deliver it.

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