Resource-based technology innovation in South Africa: Multotec Process Equipment: dense medium cyclone for materials separation
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Multotec Process Equipment's main motivation for developing firm-specific capabilities and making ongoing innovations is the local demand from industries, principally mining, for equipment to meet their specific needs. This demand has provided the base for export capabilities. At present, approximately 30% of output is exported. The main markets are Norway, Russia and Australia. The firm is also looking at breaking into the South American market. Although MPE does not have a separate R&D division, a significant proportion of its resources, efforts and people are directed towards research, and it has good links with institutions such as universities. Although R&D expenditure has remained at 1.5% of turnover or less (Table 1), this does not include the expenditure on the testing facility supported by the SPII. The money spent on R&D also does not include the salaries of MPE staff who are responsible for ongoing product development and customisation of products to meet the needs of users. Altogether, MPE employs seven qualified process engineers. Despite the apparent success of MPE on the back of quite low levels of R&D, its experience nevertheless raises a key issue concerning the need for more responsive facilities able to undertake or support shorter-term research to complement fundamental research. This directly talks to the need identified by Department of Science and Technology to define and take forward a new R&D vision and follow through to commercialisation of the outputs.