Expert panel addressed challenges of lithium in technological innovation and development

Expert panel addressed challenges of lithium in technological innovation and development


The conversation was part of the second call for innovative proposals sponsored by SQM and the accelerator INNSPIRAL and included representatives of the mining company, Universidad Católica del Norte and the Antofagasta Industrial Association.

Open invitation to second “More Lithium, Less Footprint” competition

The panel discussion, entitled “Innovative solutions for the sustainable use of lithium,” focused on the challenges presented by this product, which has made Chile, through SQM, a leading global producer of this metal.  During the event, panelists agreed on the need for companies to work with the academic sector to ensure the cluster contributes to technological research, development and innovation through the creation of expert human capital focused on lithium, which is essential for the global development of electromobility.

The panel discussion took place as part of the call for innovative proposals in the “More Lithium, Less Footprint” competition, organized for the second year in a row by SQM in collaboration with the business accelerator INNSPIRAL. The competition seeks to encourage the development of solutions related to electromobility and energy storage with a positive social and environmental impact. The deadline for submitting proposals is May 16th. Competition rules can be found at:, and the top three awards are: US$50,000, US$30,000 and US$20,000. Selected applicants will also receive support for developing a pilot for their business and executive mentorships with SQM experts.

The event was held and streamed online from the start-up lab USQAI at Universidad Católica del Norte (UCN). Participants included: José Miguel Berguño, SQM Senior VP of Corporate Services; Iván Vera, founding partner of Innspiral; Bárbara Torres, Director of Innovation and Technology Transfer at UCN; and Fernando Cortez, head of the Antofagasta Industrial Association. The panel looked at business opportunities in electromobility for the local innovative ecosystem and the country as a whole.

José Miguel Berguño, SQM Senior VP of Corporate Services, commented during the discussion: “We face the challenge of growing in both production and quality while using significantly fewer natural resources, in order to contribute to developing electromobility in the world. That’s why we have launched this call for innovation, which happens when we increase interactions among different actors in the same ecosystem, such as when academia and trade associations partner to respond effectively to the challenges of industry.”

Representing the academic sphere, UCN Director of Innovation and Technology Transfer, Bárbara Torres, affirmed: “Over the past 10 years, Chile has seen amazing growth in its innovation systems and that has to do with the people within them, and with the commitment of institutions, companies, and all of us who are seeking in some way to diversify our production matrix.  “More Lithium, Less Footprint” is a key part of that, because it calls for innovation in response to real needs.”

Iván Vera, a founding partner of the business accelerator INNSPIRAL, explained that the competition is open to all R+D centers, universities, SMEs, startups and initiatives under development, noting that, “‘More Lithium, Less Footprint’ is an invitation to the creative forces of all those who want to contribute. Conditions have never been better to create an innovation program as open as this one, to create lithium-based solutions for energy storage and electromobility.”

CEO of the Antofagasta Industrial Association (AIA), Fernando Cortez, highlighted that: “As a trade association, for 30 years we have been working to take advantage of our natural wealth to build new capital assets that will enable us to strengthen our production matrix, and we are optimistic about our efforts, because the region has grown and new sectors are being developed. So these kinds of opportunities for conversation and this competition focus on the sustainable development of the industry.”

In this regard, strategic partnerships are crucial for the industry’s development. In fact, “More Lithium, Less Footprint” is sponsored by EXPONOR 2022, and the competition’s Pitch Day is part of the official program of this international event, scheduled for June 14th.