Albuquerque, NM – September 12, 2013
In his administrative report at the Board of Regents meeting on Tuesday, September 10th, President Frank presented the Innovate ABQ project to the UNM Regents. STC.UNM CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila was also present to provide additional details on the latest developments in this collaborative initiative to create a research and innovation district in New Mexico. For more details on the President’s presentation, see Chloe Henson’s Sept. 12th article, “Innovate ABQ Proposal Goes Before Regents,” from the DailyLobo.com, reprinted below.
‘Innovate ABQ’ proposal goes before regents
Frank pressing for ‘concentrated research district’ in the city
UNM’s effort to centralize Albuquerque’s entrepreneurial startup scene finally goes to the Board of Regents.
At a Board of Regents meeting Tuesday, UNM President Robert Frank talked about the project Innovate ABQ.
According to the website of UNM’s Science and Technology Corporation, Innovate ABQ is a collaborative project between UNM, the city, the county, the state and local business communities. The venture will “create a research and innovation district near the University,” which will provide students with opportunities in jobs, internships, residential and cultural amenities related to science and mathematics, according to the site.
Frank said New Mexico “has great science” and “entrepreneurial personality,” but Albuquerque has no single place for scientific minds to connect.
“If you look through Albuquerque, we have no concentrated research district,” he said. “We have … a scattering of research districts across the city. And because we don’t have a true concentration it hurts us in building a real focus on it.”
Frank said a proper research district contains a dense enough population that people can come into contact with each other enough to form new ideas.
“Research districts create a true, mutually supportive relationship. And if there’s one word you think about with a research district, it’s the word ‘collision,'” he said. “And what we mean by ‘collision’ is a density of people so that people bump into each other with enough frequency that they make things happen.”
Frank said this “distance of collision” for people is less than a mile.
“The normal model of Albuquerque, how we do things in New Mexico, doesn’t work very well,” he said.
Frank said that last week, he visited SkySong, an innovation community started by ASU in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“All of the investment in SkySong actually comes from Scottsdale and the investment that Scottsdale has made in SkySong is phenomenal,” he said. “It is $80 million that has been invested in SkySong by the town of Scottsdale.”
According to SkySong’s website, the innovation center is “a joint venture among ASU, the ASU Foundation, the city of Scottsdale and the Plaza Companies.”
Frank said while a university usually initiates innovation centers, the centers usually belong to the community.
“One of the things that’s critical about efforts that we’ve seen that are successful is they often start with the university, but they expand to be owned by the community,” he said. “So the university sparks it, but it’s later owned by the community. So that’s a really critical phenomenon — driven by the university, owned by the community.”
Frank said UNM will have to engage with communities across the state to execute the project.
“We now believe we have to reach out to all of New Mexico,” he said. “Central New Mexico will not be enough, engaging, to start, the city of Albuquerque, the county, and probably most of the state before we’re done.”
Frank said UNM would also “create new companies, grow existing companies and, last but not least, attract companies to New Mexico.”
Lisa Kuuttila, president and CEO of UNM’s Science and Technology Corporation, said a building at Mesa del Sol could be a potential startup space for the innovation center while the development of the main site begins Downtown.
“There’s an opportunity to purchase the building at Mesa del Sol, called the Aperture building, and that building would be an ideal short term way for us to get this innovative project off the ground,” she said.
Kuuttila said projects already exist at the Aperture building, which could attract companies to participate in Innovate ABQ.
“We would envision that facility being utilized for incubation space as to see who would locate there short term and help really fill that building up with tenants as we’re developing our site, Innovate ABQ, Downtown,” she said.
For more information, contact: