A lot of cool new technologies, including many potentially breakthrough inventions, were on display in early October at the University of New Mexico and at Technology Venture Corp.’s annual Deal Stream Summit.
That includes everything from medical devices and pharmaceuticals to new software and information technology that can speed animation production or allow startup businesses to set up their companies online in just a few hours.
Some cutting-edge applications in materials science were also on display, such as the development of new nontoxic, “quantum dots” that absorb light and then emit it back out in specific colors. A new company, UbiQD, plans to market that technology for use in things such as luminous paints for signage, or in plastics to make them glow.
Many of the new technologies already have experienced entrepreneurs at the helm, and a good number have raised seed and early-stage capital. That’s particularly true of the businesses that presented at TVC’s event on Oct. 7, considered the state’s premier annual equity capital forum.
“We select companies to present based on their level of maturity,” said TVC President and CEO John Freisinger. “There were a wide range of technologies being shown here, and they’re all being commercialized by businesses that are ready for investment.”
But many technologies on display this month – especially the ones shown during a two-day event at UNM to showcase emerging university inventions – will require a lot more management talent and early-stage funding to take even their first steps to market.
That’s typical in the world of technology commercialization, said Scott Maloney of Seed Worthy, the company that developed the new software platform for businesses with innovative apps to rapidly establish online operations.
“The truth is, there are way more ideas out there than are practical in the market,” Maloney said. “Ideas are cheap and unimpressive. It’s the business execution and the real-world application to fill a need that makes the difference.”
Technology-transfer and economic-development professionals are now working to build that local entrepreneurial talent to help aspiring innovators turn many of New Mexico’s great ideas into successful businesses. That’s what initiatives such as Albuquerque’s new ABQid startup accelerator and Central New Mexico Community College’s recently opened STEMulous Center are all about, said Albuquerque Economic Development Director Gary Oppedahl.
“An experienced venture capitalist in Colorado recently said that in his state, there are a lot more entrepreneurs than there are ideas for new companies,” Oppedahl said. “In New Mexico, we have more ideas than we do entrepreneurs. So everything we’re doing now is to support entrepreneurial education and development to change that.”
That’s especially needed at UNM, where the Science and Technology Corp. — the university’s technology transfer office — has been particularly successful in recent years at inspiring faculty and staff to consider market applications for their research.
Patent applications and invention disclosures by UNM personnel have grown markedly, with the number of patent filings up 46 percent in the last five years, the number of patents issued up 182 percent and the number of invention disclosures up 26 percent.
“We’re seeing researchers, faculty and graduate students gaining a much better understanding of the commercial potential of their work,” said Joe Cecchi, dean of the School of Engineering. “That’s where STC has been so valuable, in helping to build that culture.”
But UNM needs to find people who can run companies to commercialize university technology.
“We need entrepreneurs who understand technology enough to write a business plan and execute the tasks needed to get funding,” Cecchi said. “We can always use more technology in the pipeline, but that’s not the critical point now. It’s getting the entrepreneurs that’s critical.”
To that end, STC launched a new initiative this month, “Technology Socials,” where UNM innovators come together with entrepreneurs and investors to share ideas and information about marketable university technologies, allowing them to network to help move inventions forward.
UNM innovators presented more than two dozen technologies. That included inventions in engineering fields such as optics and photonics, and in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. It will hold two more tech socials in February to showcase inventions in nanomanufacturing and materials science, as well as new medical devices and instrumentation.
UNM hopes the events will bring innovators in similar fields together to mutually assist one another, while potentially connecting them with experienced entrepreneurs and investors who can help guide new inventions to market, said STC President and CEO Lisa Kuuttila.
“We need to bring these folks together more frequently,” Kuuttila said. “Over time, I believe we’ll start to see technology clusters emerge with companies coming together to support one another.”