The utility approved a first-time grant for the research university in Socorro this month as part of a $1 million round of donations for entrepreneurship and economic development programs around the state.
The university has greatly accelerated its tech transfer efforts since 2014, when it launched its Center for Leadership in Technology Commercialization that offers courses and hands-on experience for undergraduate and graduate students to acquire knowledge and skills to guide technologies to market.
The new grant will beef up those efforts, allowing Tech to provide seed funding for select faculty-created technologies that demonstrate particularly promising market potential, said Peter Anselmo, center director and Management Department chair.
“Faculty across campus are now thinking about their research in commercial terms,” Anselmo said. “This grant will help us build up our pipeline of intellectual property as we talk with potential investors about licensing.”
The university will also use the grant money to create two new makerspaces on and off campus. That includes turning an abandoned building in town into a new innovation center for Tech faculty and students to further develop innovative technologies, while allowing existing and aspiring entrepreneurs in the local community to pursue their own projects as well, said Tech President Stephen Wells.
“We’re working closely with the local community to build entrepreneurship and capability as an economic engine for development,” Wells said. “We want to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit on campus and off.”
The university has launched a number of initiatives in recent years to build that entrepreneurial spirit, including an annual Inventors and Entrepreneurs Workshop that brings in local and national entrepreneurs and investors for educational presentations, panel discussions and a Shark Tank-style pitch competition dubbed the “Wolves Den.” Tech is now partnering with the ABQid Business Accelerator in Albuquerque to help prepare students from Navajo Technical University and Luna Community College for participation in the next Wolves Den in the spring, Anselmo said.
Tech also held a first-time technology showcase on campus in November with about a dozen potential investors and partners from the East and West coasts.