Nearly three decades ago, Greg Baiden had millions of dollars and a dedicated research mine at his disposal to develop and test innovative technology, like remote guidance systems and automation, that would improve then-nickel giant Inco Ltd.’s mining processes.
Today, the founder of Sudbury-based Penguin Automated Systems Inc. doesn’t see nearly the same level of commitment to research and development among Canadian mining firms. Where Inco would dedicate the better part of $100 million over several years to one major technology project, Baiden now sees miners contributing chump change to underfunded industry research consortiums.
“That’s not a serious effort. If that’s how Toyota or [General Motors] or Ford or Rockwell or any of them tried to run their businesses, they would fail.
And mining companies fail, constantly, because they don’t put any real effort in,” he said. “You should be doing [R&D] as a competitive advantage for your company…because the people that make that happen are going to own the mining industry in the future.”
The mining sector isn’t alone in its approach to R&D. According to a recent paper by the Centre for Future Work, Canadian businesses’ investments in R&D have markedly declined in the past two decades in comparison to global counterparts.