The paper was authored by AMIRA program manager Gray Bailey and managing director Joe Cuzzuca and presented to the recent Alumina Quality Workshop forum in Perth.
It found that while collaborative research into the alumina industry was active, moves taken by companies to cut costs put them at risk of missing the full opportunities presented by collaborative technology development.
The authors pointed out that aside from the electrolytic process to extract alumina and the development of the Bayer process to make aluminium oxide from bauxite undergoing improvement since the 19th century, the basic industry processes had remained virtually unchanged.
“Historically, the highly competitive nature of the alumina industry has limited collaboration,” the authors said.
“Within tight budgetary constraints which now seem the norm in the alumina industry, sharing the cost of potentially process-changing work has to be appealing.”
Bailey and Cucuzza said there were strong arguments for collaboration in the sector, including reduced research and development expenditure, access to intellectual property, increased flexibility, access to external expertise, shared outcomes and funding leverage through government assistance.
“There is a perception that collaboration will threaten a company’s competitive advantage or that a competitor would get a leg up or the administration is simply too hard to organise or manage,” they said.
“Understanding the sources of competitive advantage may allay fears and encourage greater collaboration.
“Technology development through collaboration makes sense, but the nature of collaboration needs broadening.”
AMIRA has developed and managed 42 collaborative projects for the alumina industry since 1988.