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Selo Ndlovu 2017On the 17th of August 2017 Prof Ndlovu was inducted as the SAIMM President for 2017/2018. The students and members attending the AGM welcomed her as president with applause. Prof Ndlovu is the second female president in SAIMM history.

PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS

Industry-Academic Collaborations: An Opportunity for the Minerals Industry during the Economic Downturn

Although collaborative partnerships between universities and the minerals industry have been ongoing for ages, the potential benefits that can be realized through such partnerships have become increasingly important and are more relevant now than ever. This is because the growing complexity of problems such as the depletion of rich and easy-to-treat ore deposits, rising production costs, water issues, and stringent environmental regulations, coupled with increasing economic pressure and hence budget cuts, has made it more difficult for companies to do all the necessary research in-house in order to remain globally competitive. Similarly, universities are continually faced with challenges such as a lack of steady financial support for their research and training programmes, as well as the need to have their research commercialized or applied to solve existing industry problems so as to enhance their reputations.

Although industry-academic collaborations generally lead to the creation of pathways to knowledge and technology transfer from academia to industry and vice-versa, industry and universities are sometimes dissatisfied with the ability to extract value from these partnerships. For example, the research partnerships generally entail various challenges such as intellectual property issues and confidentiality of joint projects. In addition, while industry in most cases seeks quick solutions to existing problems (e.g., through corporate profitdriven applied research), universities, on the other hand, may only value excellent research outputs in the form of publications (i.e., contributions to the public body of knowledge). As a result of differences in the motivations of universities and the industry, ‘perceived’ disappointing results can arise from the partnerships. Thus, one fundamental principle for developing industry-academic collaboration into a successful and beneficial partnership lies in each partner’s understanding of the working environment, missions, and motivations of the other.

Prof Ndlovu’s presentation explores the benefits, challenges, and the best-practice approach for a successful collaborative partnership between the minerals industry and academic institutions in order to increase the capacity for innovation and growth in the minerals sector.