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NM Tech, students prep startups for commercialization

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Five potential startup companies are emerging at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in bizO-RobinsonAvila_Kevin_BizOSocorro to take new technologies to market.

More than a dozen students participated in a weeklong boot camp in early June to prepare business plans, marketing strategies and potential presentations to investors for funding to move forward.

The boot camp led by Raul Deju – a nationally renowned business expert who heads the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership at John F. Kennedy University in California – culminated in mock, 10-minute pitches for private investment to prepare the students to step into the real world.

Students Carson Laudaudio, left, and Jason Sharkey speak with business leader and mentor Raul Deju about the portable, solar-powered autoclave they developed to sterilize medical equipment and tools in remote areas. (Kevin Robinson-Avila/Albuquerque Journal)

Students Carson Laudaudio, left, and Jason Sharkey speak with business leader and mentor Raul Deju about the portable, solar-powered autoclave they developed to sterilize medical equipment and tools in remote areas. (Kevin Robinson-Avila/Albuquerque Journal)

“It’s very hard and often intimidating to compact a complex presentation into just 10 minutes, but it’s a critical part of the entrepreneurial process,” Deju told the students. “The life of an entrepreneur is all about inspiration and perspiration, where you get inspired to do something that’s a lot of hard work. This isn’t the end product; this is just the beginning of a long process.”

The boot camp is part of New Mexico Tech’s new-found emphasis on teaching entrepreneurial skills to students and inspiring them to work on commercializing new technologies that either they created, or that researchers at the university or the national laboratories have developed.

To facilitate that process, the university launched a Center for Leadership in Technology Commercialization last January to offer courses and hands-on experience for undergraduates and graduate students to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to commercialize technologies.

Most of the students who participated in the boot camp also attended the center program this past semester, although two of the five student teams in the boot camp were pursuing business strategies for technologies that they created on their own.

All the teams said they plan to take the next steps toward market, including further laboratory or prototype development of products, patent protection and fund-raising to form startups and begin the commercialization process.

The three technologies presented by students who participated in the commercialization leadership program were:

  • A new network cybersecurity system developed at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California.
  • A promising biopharmaceutical compound created by New Mexico Tech researchers to fight drug-resistent bacteria and cancer.
  • A low-cost production method for generating energy-efficient magnetic refrigeration to replace today’s energy-hog electric refrigerators.
Raul Deju, director of the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership at John F. Kennedy University in California, speaks to students at New Mexico Tech who participated in a weeklong entrepreneur boot camp.

Raul Deju, director of the Institute of Entrepreneurial Leadership at John F. Kennedy University in California, speaks to students at New Mexico Tech who participated in a weeklong entrepreneur boot camp.

The cybersecurity system, which the lab developed to protect government institutions against network security breaches, is probably closest to being commercialized.

The students said they plan to license the system this year from the lab in partnership with New Mexico Tech. They will build a user-friendly dashboard to make the monitoring software easy for commercial customers to use and then seek funding by next year to go to market.

Deju said those plans seem realistic. “This could be a home run if it’s done right,” he said. “The government has invested a huge amount in creating it.”

The other two university-developed technologies are still early-stage innovations that need more lab development.

But by working with researchers now, the students can help better prepare the technologies for when they do move to market, said Peter Anselmo, management department chairman at New Mexico Tech, who heads the leadership in technology commercialization program.

“The students are looking at early-stage technology, but that’s deliberate to shape what our researchers do to make their work more market-driven,” Anselmo said. “In many other universities, it’s more about pushing technology out the door and incubating it through startup companies. What we’re doing is focused on market pull, which the students are helping to define.”

The other two student-developed technologies were a digitally operated, hand-worn glove for stroke patients to monitor their progress during rehabilitation; and an inexpensive, portable, solar-powered autoclave that students developed to allow medical teams to sterilize tools and equipment in field operations.

Students said the boot camp and New Mexico Tech’s new commercialization program are providing real-world tools to pursue business endeavors.

“These programs show you how great ideas can be turned into businesses,” said Chansce Pittard, who is working to commercialize the cybersecurity system. “We’re learning how to put knowledge to work in the real world.”

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