SME Network fast tracks innovation


A joint innovation arena for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and industry was missing in the mining innovation system. This was revealed in a survey conducted by Swedish Mining Innovation.

Large corporations wanted more technical expertise from SMEs to strengthen their R&D, while SMEs wanted support in finding ways to collaborate. In 2023, Swedish Mining Innovation launched the SME Network. In its first year, the network matched 51 SME innovations with seven mining partners – 26 businesses being introduced to the mining sector for the very first time.

Unlocking doors, leveling the ground

The network’s mission is to create this innovation arena for the mining industry to be the link between the challenges of the companies and the sustainable and innovative solutions of the SMEs. The SME Network is open to all potential suppliers who can solve the challenges of the mining industry.

LKAB is one of seven participating case owners.

– LKAB is facing a major transition in a relatively short time. At the same time, technological development is exploding. Close collaboration with innovative suppliers will be necessary to solve that equation,” says Markus Odevall, Innovation Strategist at LKAB.

– The SME Network’s method differs from LKAB’s traditional purchasing process. In this case, we made an internal call for challenges, or cases, that SME companies then pitched solutions for. The best pitches were introduced to the case owners, Markus Odevall continues.

Enabling more innovation

The network coordinator, Erik Hagenrud has twenty years’ experience of SME business development and export. The SMEs we are looking for could be a mining supplier, but it could also be a company who never considered the mining industry as a potential market segment for their products or services.

– Now that our sector is entering Sweden’s next major innovation initiative, Impact Innovation, we want to expand the SME network concept further in the value chain, Erik Hagenrud concludes.

How the SME Network works

1. Find the problem. The case owner (e.g. LKAB) presents one or more challenges that require innovative solutions.

2. Scoping the case. SME Network conceptualizes these challenges into clearly defined cases.

3. Search. SME Network pushes the case in relevant channels and industry forums to pull innovation proposals from suppliers.

4. Quality assurance. SME Network reviews proposals and ensures that the SMEs meet the case criteria, and that the submissions are elgible for SME Network support.

5. Match-make. The SME Network team leads the dialogue between supplier and case owners until the right innovation is found and a collaboration between the parties is established.

Join the network here.


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