Office seeks to overcome innovation obstacles
City teams up with CEMI to help suppliers bring new products to market
Funding for the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation’s (CEMI) Innovation and Prosperity Office, which links Sudbury-based mining suppliers with R&D resources in the community, has been extended for a four-year period.
Established in August 2011 as a one year pilot program with matching funds from the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation and CEMI, the Innovation and Prosperity Office performs an outreach function to help mining suppliers overcome the barriers to innovation.
“The goal is to assist innovators at the early stages of their ideas before a supplier invests his time and savings and mortgages his home,” said Innovation and Prosperity Office co-ordinator Bora Ugurgel. “Our R&D directors can tell a supplier if there’s a need for a product or solution, what the potential is and if it has been tried before.”
If an idea has merit, Ugurgel will seek buy-in from one of the city’s mining companies, refer the supplier to government funding agencies and identify researchers and academics who can assist with the validation and development of an innovative product.
Suppliers need to think long-term, said Ugurgel.
“The products they’re selling today may be in demand for the next 10 years, but if the mining industry changes to a different system, they need to invest time and money today so they are ready.”
In the first year of the program, Ugurgel held face-to-face meetings with approximately 45 mining suppliers to identify the problems they face bringing new products and solutions to market.
“Often, they’ll have a good idea, but don’t have the time to do anything about it,” he discovered. “They’re usually smaller businesses with cash flow issues, and if you’re trying to operate a business, you don’t always have the resources to look into innovative products.”
Between president Doug Morrison, chief operating officer Damien Duff, vice-president Peter Kaiser and the research organization’s three R&D directors – Al Akerman, George Hughes and Seppo Haapamaki – CEMI boasts hundreds of years worth of mining experience that mining suppliers are able to take advantage of.
Most of the Innovation and Prosperity Office’s work is confidential, but Ugurgel offered two examples of engagements that have evolved into active R&D projects.
CEMI organized a brainstorming session for Mansour Mining Technologies, a Sudbury-based manufacturer of ground support solutions to identify gaps in ground support technology.
Fifteen representatives of mining companies and engineering firms participated in “an open discussion about where we saw ground support going and what the near- and mid-term needs might be,” said Mansour Mining Technologies president and CEO Jean-Guy Coulombe.
“Specifically, what we’re looking at is creating intelligence in ground support products using fiber optic and wireless technologies that tell us what a bolt is actually doing, if it’s under stress and, if so, how much stress. It’s designed to be an indicator of potential problems.
“There are products out there that will do this, but they’re custom, one-off bolts that a boutique engineering firm will produce for $2,000.”
Mansour Technologies’ goal is to manufacture them in a production environment at a lower cost.
“The Sudbury area is potentially a huge user of intelligent bolts especially as the mines go deeper,” said Coulombe. “The whole basin is seismically active, so there’s a significant need for this kind of product.”
Another Sudbury-based company, Dura 21, is working with CEMI’s Innovation and Prosperity Office to advance the development of its cryogenic treatment process for extending the life of slurry pipes and elbows.
Supercooling items inside Dura 21’s cryogenic treatment chamber realigns the molecular structure of metals, thereby increasing their durability and resistance to wear.
Research to compare the process to other more established wear resistance treatments such as chromium carbide hardfacing and rubber lining is under way.
Ugurgel, who has an MBA from Laurentian University, will continue to proactively reach out to mining suppliers, but also encourages companies with innovative ideas to take the initiative and make use of his services.
Formerly with Symboticware, a Sudbury startup offering state-of-the-art equipment monitoring and communication solutions to the mining industry, Ugurgel said he understands the challenges mining suppliers face.
“I know what small and medium enterprises are going through, what their needs are and how important it is for them to align their ideas with the needs of the mining industry.”
The Greater Sudbury Development Corporation has committed a sum of $75,000 for each of the next four years to fund the Innovation and Prosperity Office.
Tagged Bora Ugurgel, CEMI, Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation, Damien Duff, Doug Morrison, Dura21, Greater Sudbury Development Corporation, Innovation and Prosperity Office, Jean-Guy Coulombe, Mansour Mining Technologies, Peter Kaiser, Sudbury