Edition 2015

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Growing Ideas

Programs and facilities at NMSU are helping New Mexico entrepreneurs and innovators get new businesses off the ground.
by Ellen Davis

An illustration of light bulbs growing in flower pots as a visual metaphor for growing ideas

NMSU has set up an infrastructure to help faculty members and New Mexico entrepreneurs turn their ideas into profit.

During his tenure as a member of New Mexico State University’s Board of Regents, Roswell businessman James Manatt continually urged the university to do more in the area of technology commercialization.

“NMSU conducts about $160 million in research and development each year,” Manatt notes. “We need to create a resource for our faculty to help them commercialize their research and development, which would generate royalty income for them and the university.”

Manatt’s vision – which many others shared – is now becoming a reality as NMSU has set up an infrastructure to help faculty members and New Mexico entrepreneurs turn their ideas into profit.

The initial point of contact for prospective entrepreneurs is the Arrowhead Center, which was formed last year to provide assistance in identifying markets, verifying new technologies, writing business plans and finding financing.

“The Arrowhead Center was designed to overcome the biggest obstacle to new business in New Mexico – access to people who have organized companies before,” says Garrey Carruthers, dean of the NMSU College of Business Administration and Economics and the university’s vice provost for economic development.

At the Arrowhead Center, companies will have access to 150 business advisers, including NMSU students, faculty members and retired business people. In exchange for these services, the Arrowhead Center will receive either a fee or an equity share in the new companies.

The Arrowhead Center was modeled after the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University in Houston. Since its inception in late 1999, the Rice Alliance has assisted in the launch of more than 150 technology companies that have raised more than $118 million in funding.

“Arrowhead has the potential to help NMSU create new, vital revenue streams for the university,” Manatt says. “It also holds great promise for the faculty to be creative in thinking about applications of their research. At the same time, it will be a great training ground and proving ground for our students and will create new job opportunities for our graduates.”

The Arrowhead Center is directed by Kevin Boberg, who was recently named the first holder of the Garrey E. and Katherine T. Carruthers Chair in Economic Development at NMSU.

Boberg says his goal is for the center to work with 45 client companies a year. One regular client is going to be Los Alamos National Laboratory, which will use NMSU students to help evaluate some of its new technologies.

The Arrowhead Center is overseen by a board composed of several prominent New Mexico businessmen, including Tony Trujillo of Silver City, Trevor Loy of Santa Fe and Sherman McCorkle of Albuquerque.

Belinda Padilla and Shandra Clow from LANL’s Technology Transfer Division meet with MBA students

Los Alamos National Laboratory plans to use the Arrowhead Center to evaluate some of its new technologies. Here, Belinda Padilla and Shandra Clow (right) from LANL’s Technology Transfer Division meet with MBA students David Seigel and Kerry Chapman.

Space for new businesses

Entrepreneurs who need a place to get their businesses started can rent space in the Genesis Center, an “incubator” facility on the NMSU campus with 30,000 square feet of office and lab space. The Genesis Center offers shared resources such as phone and Internet service, conference rooms and computer support. Companies currently in this center include Conquest Machine Inc., Interlab, LaSys Inc., Q-Cad and MacKichan Software.

Because of high demand for space in the Genesis Center, NMSU is considering plans to build an additional 40,000-square-foot incubator facility.

“The incubation stage typically lasts two or three years,” says Michael Tentnowski, a business development expert who joined the NMSU staff last year.

Tentnowski directs an organization called the Physical Science Institute (PSI) that also is becoming involved with technology commercialization efforts on campus. PSI was formed three years ago by NMSU’s Physical Science Laboratory, but is now becoming a universitywide entity. One of PSI’s functions is to take ideas that come out of labs at NSMU and develop them to the point of being commercially viable products. Another function of PSI is to make NMSU faculty members available to companies that need experts to help evaluate their new technologies.

Companies that make it past the incubation stage and are ready to construct their own facilities can do so in the Arrowhead Research Park, a 256-acre business park on the south side of the NMSU campus.

As a result of the University Research Park Act passed by the New Mexico Legislature in 1989, companies that choose to locate in this research park will get a variety of economic development incentives such as tax credits. They also will have immediate access to NMSU faculty members, as well as to NMSU’s ultra high-speed Internet connection.

Another valuable service available to entrepreneurs at NMSU is the Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center (M-TEC), which was created in 2000 under the NMSU College of Engineering to support economic development in New Mexico. M-TEC currently has seven full-time employees and 20 student employees. In the past five years, its six labs have provided technical assistance to more than 150 companies around New Mexico, including 10 new startup companies.

“In order to have a successful company that is based on a new product or manufacturing a product, the technical requirements in terms of engineering, design and product development are at least as critical as the business issues,” says M-TEC Director Anthony Hyde.

Boberg says he is proud of the fact that NMSU is able to offer such a diverse spectrum of services to entrepreneurs.

“If they just need one part or the other we can do that, but if they need an end-to- end solution, we can give it to them,” he says.

Manatt says the need for such services is definitely out there.

“When we add up NMSU’s $160 million in annual research and development, New Mexico Tech’s $120 million, and perhaps another $300 million at White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base, we are addressing more than a half-billion dollars of what I call ‘unaddressed deal flow’ for development,” he says. “That is a lot of potential.”

For more information: http://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu

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