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 Goodman Realty Group 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.