Australian miner Rio Tinto is teaming up with global venture studio and start-up investor Founders Factory to invest AUD 14.4 million ($9.28 million) in technology startups.

Rio Tinto said in a statement the firms aim to back the development and commercialization of breakthrough technologies in the mining industry, supporting the company’s efforts to find better ways to provide the materials the world needs.

According to the statement, the fund will be invested in global pre-seed and seed stage start-ups over the next three years.

The focus will be on technologies in the fields of safe mine operations, decarbonization, exploration processing and automation.

Each start-up will receive a cash investment and participate in a four-month accelerator program run by Founders Factory to support product development and commercialization.

It is noted that the Western Australian Government has also partnered with Founders Factory to invest in nature-tech start-ups that preserve and restore nature and biodiversity.

The partnerships with Rio Tinto and the Western Australian Government will support the first Australian hub of Founders Factory in Perth, Western Australia, boosting the state’s innovation credentials.

It is also noted that Founders Factory has successfully operated in London, Johannesburg, Milan, Berlin, Bratislava, New York and Singapore.

“Technology has always been at the forefront of our industry and Western Australia can be the Silicon Valley of the global mining industry,” Rio Tinto Iron Ore Chief Executive Simon Trott said.

According to him, the firm’s iron ore operations in the Pilbara are among the most technologically advanced in the world.

“This exciting new partnership gives us the opportunity to build on our innovative legacy to unlock new technologies and help our business find better ways to provide the materials the world needs,” he said.

With the backing of industry and Australian state government, he said Australian and international start-ups will receive investment opportunities and access to real-world testing and scaling support, helping Western Australia’s innovation economy to grow.

Meanwhile, Western Australian Premier Roger Cook said that securing the internationally renowned Founders Factory for Perth is a major coup for the state.

According to him, this is the first time the tech accelerator has operated in Australia, providing a springboard for innovative local businesses to reach an international audience and maximize their chances of success.

“My government is committed to decarbonizing our economy by 2050 and it’s vital that we support local startups developing the technology to reach this goal,

“This three-year partnership will further cement Western Australia’s position as a global leader in research and the development, helping to diversify the economy and create the jobs of the future,” he added.

Founders Factory Chief Executive Officer Henry Lane said they are excited to be partnering with Rio Tinto and launching operations in Western Australia.

“Startups can drive further productivity, safety and automation in the mining sector, whilst accelerating the industry’s transition to net zero,

“This program can help international and local founders test their technologies with the global leader in the sector and find pathways to commercial scale and impact,” he added.

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