The inaugural event for Innovate New Mexico, the new collaborative program to provide easy access for entrepreneurs, investors, and companies to cutting-edge technologies at New Mexico’s six research institutions, was a resounding success. Held at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum on April 26th before a crowd of 200 attendees, the affair opened with a welcome address from Barbara Brazil, Deputy Cabinet Secretary for the New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD) and Chair of the Technology Research Collaborative (TRC), and opening remarks from Jennifer Sinsabaugh, director of the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NM MEP).
The event, a technology showcase featuring twelve inventions from the Innovate New Mexico members—the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech, Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos National Lab, and the Air Force Research Lab—was an opportunity to demonstrate to invited local, national and international companies, entrepreneurs, and investors that New Mexico collectively has rich and deep technology assets that could be the answer to real-world problems and industry needs. The event also showcased 17 start-up companies already commercializing technologies from the institutions. Several of the industry companies in attendance also met separately with inventors and start-ups.
Technologies pitched by inventors included the following:
- An infrared retina – an imaging system modeled on the human eye
- A desalination process to clean water
- A device that links to smart phones and head phones to alert distracted runners and walkers of approaching threats
- A portable device that detects bacterial and viral compounds through a breath test
- A biopolymer that can protect stainless steel pipes from hydrogen erosion
- An environmentally friendly larvicide that uses lemon grass oil to kill mosquito larvae
- A low-carbon, renewable fuel from biomass
- A low-cost, light-weight device that improves heat transfer in thermal energy storage systems
- A high-power, broad-band amplifier for radar applications such as tracking of space debris
- A method for producing magnetic vortex fluids using magnetic particles for mixing and heat transfer
- A fluid-filled, multi-functional composite material for radiation shielding
- A depleted uranium oxide film for low-cost optoelectronic devices such as uranium photodiodes
The technology showcase was presented by the state of New Mexico’s Technology Research Collaborative (TRC) and the New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NM MEP) and organized by STC.UNM on behalf of the Innovate New Mexico partners.
TRC, re-established by Governor Martinez in 2013, is a consortium of the state’s research and national lab institutions for the purpose of commercializing the wealth of technologies that exist at the institutions that will create new technologies, companies and jobs, and create a workforce to support these enterprises. The TRC has a business-centric focus to leverage investment and technology maturation funds it receives to invest in business/university/laboratory technologies that have a strong plan to bring the technologies to market. The TRC is administered through the New Mexico Economic Development Department’s Office of Science & Technology.
MEP is a statewide assistance center for small and mid-sized manufacturers in New Mexico, dedicated to increasing their competitiveness through programs and services through partnerships with government, not-for-profit and industry resources.
A luncheon panel discussion on what is happening now and what will be needed to make New Mexico the “The State of Innovation” was moderated by Patricia Knighten, former manager of the NMEDD’s Science & Technology office and current chief business development officer of Team Technologies, Inc., an advanced engineering and manufacturing company in Albuquerque. “The TRC recently provided $300,000 in funding to six startup companies to help them develop and commercialize several innovative technologies that are the result of partnerships among researchers at New Mexico’s laboratories and universities and the private sector. This is an example of great collaborations going on among the partners, and we’d certainly like to see more of this happening through the Innovate New Mexico program. As a group, these institutions are very rich in assets” commented Ms. Knighten.
Panel participants included Matthew Fetrow, technology engagement lead for the Air Force Research Laboratory, Lisa Kuuttila, CEO & chief economic development officer for STC.UNM, Kevin Wedeward, dean of engineering at New Mexico Tech, Duncan McBranch, chief technology officer for Los Alamos National Laboratory, Terry Lombard, director of intellectual property and technology transfer for the Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University, and Genaro Montoya, program leader for Sandia National Laboratories.
The panel updated the audience on commercialization activities and programs at their respective institutions, which included the Arrowhead Center’s Aggie iCorp program and Aggie Innovation Fund; New Mexico Tech’s inaugural inventor and entrepreneur workshop and Center for Leadership & Technology Commercialization; AFRL’s new commercialization and technology transfer partnership with New Mexico Tech; LANL’s small business technology program and Pathfinder Fund; STC’s Co-Investment Fund for UNM start-ups, Innovate ABQ innovation district, and the Innovation Academy for UNM students; and Sandia’s Center for Collaboration and Commercialization and its work with small companies through the NMSBA program.
Panel members were asked where they believe the gaps/needs are in commercializing technologies in the state. Comments (including those from the audience) are summarized below:
- Provide more gap funding to mature early stage technologies to attract investor interest
- Provide more venture capital funding for new companies
- Pursue more partnerships between university start-ups and large companies outside the state who can provide needed management, distribution and marketing resources
- Focus on millennial and baby boomer entrepreneurs and investors
- Promote New Mexico start-ups outside the state
- Provide more product development and management expertise for start-ups to balance their technology expertise
- Pursue more industry-sponsored research
- Create a “bulletin board”-type program that would identify real problems in the state that need solutions
- Pursue stronger connections with the state’s industry associations that can help to make connections to their national counterparts
- Leverage more projects through the SBA and SBIR/STTR programs.
Panel discussion ended with the speakers identifying growing technology areas in the state, including biotech/bioscience, water and energy technologies, photonics (optics and lasers), flow cytometry technologies, microsystems, small satellite technologies, software development, unmanned air systems (control technologies for drones), and smart grids/smart systems.
Brian Birk, managing partner for Sun Mountain Capital, a Santa Fe-based private equity and venture capital investment firm for public and private entities, provide special remarks on the funding climate in New Mexico. Sun Mountain advises the State Investment Council (SIC) on its Private Equity Investment Program (PEIP), which invests in venture capital funds in New Mexico. Mr. Birk stated that in the ten years since the SIC has been investing in technology companies in New Mexico, the state now has the right formula for investing in the best companies and fund managers. Thousands of jobs have been created and $100 million in profits have flowed back to the state. “Today, for every $1 invested by the state in a start-up company $6 in additional investments is brought in from good venture capital funds that appreciate the technology depth these companies have that are based on real scientific breakthroughs,” he said.
Mr. Birk stated that the future of funding in New Mexico looks bright, especially with the creation of a new initiative. The Catalyst Fund will provide $20 million for investment in seed technology development funds across the state. The initiative is a collaborative effort among the SIC, the state EDD, the city of Albuquerque, and the New Mexico Finance Authority who have worked together to structure the fund. This new $20 million dollar fund of funds will be allocated to various micro funds that will have to match funds to at least 50%, doubling or more the possible money available for start-ups in the state. Sun Mountain will manage the program under the SIC’s PEIP.
Larry Alei, board member-at-large on the TRC board, ended the day’s event with some final thoughts on the vision of the TRC and also thanked the event co-sponsors and organizer. “Working together our research institutions in the state can do more to commercialize our rich technology assets than we can do separately. Coupled with making more capital available for smart investing in new companies will help us succeed in creating more technology-related jobs throughout the state, and contribute to economic growth and an innovation economy.”
The technology showcase was followed by a reception sponsored by the Innovate ABQ® development team of Signet Development, Dekker Perich Sabatini, and Signet Development where attendees, research institution technology managers and inventors were able to network and share information about technologies and business needs and opportunities.
About Innovate New Mexico®
Innovate New Mexico is a statewide network among STC.UNM, New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Air Force Research Laboratory to create a “front door” through co-location to the technologies developed among these research partners. The network brings together the partners’ innovation assets to one source to provide easy access for entrepreneurs, investors, companies, industry partners, and others interested in commercializing new technologies developed in New Mexico. The program grew out of an initiative developed and spearheaded by STC in 2015 that brought together the research partners and economic development professional from the Technology Research Collaborative, the Mid-Region Council of Governments and the state’s congressional delegations. Visit the program website at www.innovatenewmexico.com.
With preliminary planning underway for Innovate ABQ’s first phase of development, a new initiative is also underway to accelerate technology commercialization statewide. Innovate New Mexico will unite the state’s research universities and national labs in efforts to create a “front door” to the innovative technologies being developed across the state. Plans call for a central site (initially located at STC’s Cecchi VentureLab and ultimately housed at the Innovate ABQ incubator) and coordinator to run a program that will work with each partner’s tech transfer office to bring their technologies and the entrepreneurs and investors looking for emerging innovations together for commercialization opportunities. To read more about Innovate New Mexico and its goal to make New Mexico the “state of innovation,” see Kevin Robinson-Avila’s November 16, 2015 articles, “Spirit of innovation accelerates” and “UNM’s tech office getting a jump on Innovate ABQ,” in the Albuquerque Journal’s Business Outlook, reprinted below.
SPIRIT OF INNOVATION ACCELERATES
By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer
Published: Monday, November 16th, 2015 at 12:02am
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s newfound spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship may have ignited with the Innovate ABQ initiative in Downtown Albuquerque, but the fire is rapidly spreading statewide.
NMSU, like the state’s other research universities and labs, is helping startups to take new technologies to market. Here, NMSU student researchers Alexander Pertusini, left, Zach Hale and Lilly Timmons discuss a new model for growing shrimp in arid environments with Tracey Carrillo, right, assistant director of campus farm operations. (Courtesy of NMSU)
The state’s three research universities and national laboratories are working with government officials to expand Innovate ABQ – which aims to build a bustling, high-tech research and development district in the heart of Albuquerque – into a joint project to promote entrepreneurship, homegrown startups and economic development throughout the state.
The partners will pool their resources and capabilities into an umbrella initiative dubbed Innovate New Mexico, where entrepreneurs and investors can rapidly access technology and human talent statewide to build new businesses. The initiative will be coordinated from an office at Innovate ABQ once the Downtown site begins operating, but users will be plugged directly into the broader research network.
The partners want to make New Mexico the go-to state for innovation, said Lisa Kuuttila, the University of New Mexico’s chief economic development officer and head of the Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s tech-transfer office.
“Innovate New Mexico will be located at Innovate ABQ, but it will provide the front door to all our research institutions and economic development initiatives,” Kuuttila said.
The office will include a coordinator to help entrepreneurs and investors search for emerging technologies, and locate experts at the labs and universities in all fields of research, from photonics and water to energy and medical diagnostics, Kuuttila said. It will also manage an umbrella website that links to all online resources at state research institutions.
Representatives from all the participating organizations met in September to start building the network. Apart from UNM, that includes New Mexico State University, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, Sandia National Laboratories, the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Sandia National Laboratories is providing technical assistance for companies working with clean energy technology through a new U.S. Department of Energy program that aims to transfer technology, scientific knowledge and expertise to private sector developers. Shown here are wind turbines at Sandia’s facilities in Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories)
The state is participating through the Economic Development Department’s Office of Science and Technology, which coordinates the state-funded Technology Research Collaborative. That program, which also includes representatives from the state’s research institutions, works to identify and promote opportunities for moving locally developed technology into the marketplace.
“We’re working collaboratively to convert New Mexico’s innovations into economic prosperity,” said Office of Science and Technology Director Patricia Knighten. “We recognize that Innovate ABQ is the hotspot right now that everybody is gravitating around, so we want to build on that momentum as part of a statewide innovation effort.”
The state is backing a new Innovate New Mexico application for a $170,000 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department to begin building collaborative activities. The state committed $10,000 in matching funds if the grant gets approved to help finance an annual “technology showcase” event where new inventions from all the research institutions would be on display for entrepreneurs and investors.
Innovate New Mexico will build on technology transfer programs already underway at the participating institutions. The state’s three labs have been working for years to move government-sponsored innovation to market and they all want to accelerate those efforts.
“We want to get our technologies out to where companies can pick them up and turn them into commercial endeavors,” said Casey DeRaad, director of AFRL’s New Mexico Institute. “Collaborative efforts through Innovate New Mexico will raise the level of activity for everyone involved, making the innovation environment more robust.”
Sandia is aggressively encouraging interaction between lab researchers and the business community. The lab is building a new Center for Collaboration and Commercialization to facilitate direct contact between lab personnel and entrepreneurs, and to provide ongoing support for anyone involved in technology transfer. It’s also working closely with UNM to generate private sector interest in technologies jointly developed by the university and the lab.
“Having all the research institutions working together gets everyone to the table and demonstrates the commitment New Mexico has for deploying the technologies that we’re creating,” said Jackie Kerby Moore, manager for technology and economic development at Sandia. “Innovate New Mexico will provide a common voice for all of us.”
All three research universities have stepped up their tech-transfer efforts. UNM’s STC is perhaps the most successful to date, with 73 new startup companies formed in the past 10 years to take UNM technologies to market.
But both New Mexico Tech and NMSU are also energetically commercializing inventions. New Mexico Tech formed a new Center for Leadership in Technology Commercialization last year to train its students in technology transfer and pair them with faculty who want to commercialize lab innovations.
And NMSU has intensified its support for entrepreneurship and startup activities through its Arrowhead Center Inc. The center offers hands-on training and assistance for students and others pursuing business ventures. That includes two incubators, one for marketing technology developed at NMSU and the other for students or alumni developing any type of business.
Nearly 90 students and alumni are now participating in the general incubator and 13 startups are under development in the technology incubator, said Terry Lombard, Arrowhead’s director of intellectual property and technology transfer.
“Collaboration through Innovate New Mexico will build on New Mexico’s strengths by showcasing all the great technologies being created around the state,” Lombard said. “It could lead to a lot more innovation and growth in technology transfer. We’re excited.”
UNM’S TECH OFFICE GETTING A JUMP ON INNOVATE ABQ
By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer
Monday, November 16th, 2015 at 12:02am
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When the Innovate ABQ site opens at Central and Broadway Downtown, the University of New Mexico’s technology-transfer office expects to move all its operations into a roughly 10,000-square-foot space there.
But it could still be one or two years before the high-tech research and development zone begins operating, so UNM’s Science and Technology Corp. is getting a jump now on Innovate ABQ by expanding its offices and activities on campus. The STC nearly doubled its space at UNM’s Science and Technology Park this month, from 6,000 to 10,000 square feet.
UNM’s hair-coloring and patterning technology, dubbed Loboloxe, could soon be headed to market through a new startup company. Shown here are strands of hair colored by the technology, which uses light infractions to place patterns on hair to make different colors when hit by light. (Courtesy of UNM)
The extra room will provide an initial launch pad for Innovate New Mexico, a new initiative to promote technology transfer at research institutions statewide. It will temporarily house UNM’s new Innovation Academy, where UNM students can get direct experience and real-world skills in entrepreneurship, critical thinking and problem-solving. It will offer space for more startup companies to begin commercializing UNM technologies. And it will host international delegations of students and faculty who visit UNM to learn about its tech-transfer program, said STC President and CEO Lisa Kuuttila.
“It could be awhile before we move Downtown, and UNM is doing a lot more things, like the Innovation Academy,” Kuuttila said. “So we expanded our space to start things here that will eventually be part of Innovate ABQ.”
The space will also house a new “entrepreneurial office hours” program with the New Mexico Angels, a group of individual investors who collaborate with UNM to vet new university technologies for commercial potential and then invest in startup companies to take the most promising ones to market. The weekly office hours will allow UNM researchers to meet informally with angel investors for feedback on the marketability of new technology and to learn more about tech transfer in general.
“This lets researchers get out of their labs, and learn something about creating companies and commercializing technology,” said Angels Vice President Dorian Rader. “Technologists are often hesitant to leave their labs but, today, a lot more of them want to apply their technology to help change the world. By having office hours right here at UNM, they won’t have to go far and it’s within their comfort zone.”
The New Mexico Angels are considering launch of a new startup based on UNM technology that would allow people to put color or designs in the hair with a simple sweep of a hand-held device, shown here in a mock demonstration. The Angels’ partnership with the Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s tech-transfer office, has so far led to seven new startup companies.
The UNM-Angels partnership led to the creation in 2012 of the New Mexico Startup Factory LLC, a company-forming incubator that the Angels use to build the initial foundations for new businesses before spinning them out in the market. To date, the Startup Factory has formed seven companies with UNM technologies and it will launch at least two or three more by early 2016, said Angels President John Chavez.
That could include a new UNM technology for people to temporarily color their hair or create hair designs with a simple swipe of a handheld device.
“It’s hair dying without chemicals,” Chavez said. “It uses light infractions to put patterns on people’s hair to make different colors when it’s hit by light. It’s still in the Startup Factory, but we’ll very likely launch a company around this technology because the hair-coloring market is humongous.”
As new startups form, there will now be more space for them to get an initial boost at STC, which provides offices, conference rooms and a variety of services to early-stage companies marketing UNM technologies. The STC expansion means seven more firms can get a start on campus, up from four now, Kuuttila said.