ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When the Innovate ABQ site opens at Central and Broadway Downtown, the University of New Mexico’s technology-transfer office expects to move all its operations into a roughly 10,000-square-foot space there.
But it could still be one or two years before the high-tech research and development zone begins operating, so UNM’s Science and Technology Corp. is getting a jump now on Innovate ABQ by expanding its offices and activities on campus. The STC nearly doubled its space at UNM’s Science and Technology Park this month, from 6,000 to 10,000 square feet.
The extra room will provide an initial launch pad for Innovate New Mexico, a new initiative to promote technology transfer at research institutions statewide. It will temporarily house UNM’s new Innovation Academy, where UNM students can get direct experience and real-world skills in entrepreneurship, critical thinking and problem-solving. It will offer space for more startup companies to begin commercializing UNM technologies. And it will host international delegations of students and faculty who visit UNM to learn about its tech-transfer program, said STC President and CEO Lisa Kuuttila.
“It could be awhile before we move Downtown, and UNM is doing a lot more things, like the Innovation Academy,” Kuuttila said. “So we expanded our space to start things here that will eventually be part of Innovate ABQ.”
The space will also house a new “entrepreneurial office hours” program with the New Mexico Angels, a group of individual investors who collaborate with UNM to vet new university technologies for commercial potential and then invest in startup companies to take the most promising ones to market. The weekly office hours will allow UNM researchers to meet informally with angel investors for feedback on the marketability of new technology and to learn more about tech transfer in general.
“This lets researchers get out of their labs, and learn something about creating companies and commercializing technology,” said Angels Vice President Dorian Rader. “Technologists are often hesitant to leave their labs but, today, a lot more of them want to apply their technology to help change the world. By having office hours right here at UNM, they won’t have to go far and it’s within their comfort zone.”
The UNM-Angels partnership led to the creation in 2012 of the New Mexico Startup Factory LLC, a company-forming incubator that the Angels use to build the initial foundations for new businesses before spinning them out in the market. To date, the Startup Factory has formed seven companies with UNM technologies and it will launch at least two or three more by early 2016, said Angels President John Chavez.
That could include a new UNM technology for people to temporarily color their hair or create hair designs with a simple swipe of a handheld device.
“It’s hair dying without chemicals,” Chavez said. “It uses light infractions to put patterns on people’s hair to make different colors when it’s hit by light. It’s still in the Startup Factory, but we’ll very likely launch a company around this technology because the hair-coloring market is humongous.”
As new startups form, there will now be more space for them to get an initial boost at STC, which provides offices, conference rooms and a variety of services to early-stage companies marketing UNM technologies. The STC expansion means seven more firms can get a start on campus, up from four now, Kuuttila said.