The university hired a veteran venture investor and entrepreneur from Silicon Valley last summer, Larry Udell, to help build and expand its commercialization efforts. And Udell, in turn, has helped recruit some particularly prominent, nationally renowned innovators and businesspeople to participate in a two-day conference and workshop in Socorro April 15-16.
The Inventors and Entrepreneurs Workshop, slated to become an annual event, will offer a range of panel discussions and hands-on events to educate students, faculty and other attendees about everything from intellectual property protection to building a startup team and finding funding. It includes a “Shark Tank”-like pitch event, dubbed the Wolves’ Den, where five students and local innovators will present to a panel of judges to win funding and/or legal in-kind services to take their products to market.
Perhaps most important, the conference offers extensive networking opportunities for NM Tech and the public to connect with top-notch national investors and entrepreneurs, said Peter Anselmo, Management Department chairman and director of NM Tech’s Center for Leadership in Technology Commercialization.
“The workshop is unique because of the national lineup of mentors and investors, and people directly involved in major companies,” Anselmo said. “We’re reaching beyond the borders and boundaries of New Mexico to show what can be done here on a New Mexico campus that attracts the Silicon Valley and Wall Street.”
Presenters include Martin Cooper, inventor of the cellphone. Cooper was a senior engineer at Motorola in 1973 when he made the first call from a mobile phone.
Former Livermore Laboratory engineer Bob Parker will also moderate a panel on licensing technology. Parker, who has more than 80 patents, invented the liquid crystal thermometer, the Mood Ring and the Duracell Battery Tester.
Other panelists and presenters include California-based America Invents CEO Bill Seidel, California-based Science Futures CEO Nola Masterson and Lionel Leventhal, managing director of the Houlihan-Lokey investment bank in New York. Some prominent local startup entrepreneurs and investors will also present, including a keynote address by Andy Lim, head of Lavu Inc., an Albuquerque-based startup marketing a point-of-sale software system for restaurants.
Most of the out-of-state guests were recruited by Udell, a serial entrepreneur who has started more than 40 companies since the 1960s. Udell is founder of the California Invention Center, the Center for New Venture Alliance at Cal State University and Intellectual Property Inc.
Since joining NM Tech as adjunct faculty last July, Udell has worked individually and in groups with faculty and students on commercialization projects.
“I’m helping to educate potential entrepreneurs, looking at technologies with market potential, and putting people together with companies and resources,” Udell said. “I’m working to see what technologies we can pull out of the university and into the marketplace.”
Given NM Tech’s roots in minerals and petroleum, Udell said he was surprised to find such a diverse array of potentially marketable technologies on campus.
“It’s a storehouse with a wealth of new innovation,” Udell said. “You wouldn’t expect it, because NM Tech is known for mining and petroleum, but it’s now doing medical, robotics and cybersecurity research, and that’s leading to new, cutting-edge technologies in all those fields. It’s an exciting place to introduce investors from the Silicon Valley.”
Technologies now targeted for commercialization include:
n A new biopharmaceutical compound to fight drug-resistant bacteria and cancer.
n A novel orthopedic surgeon’s tool that can drill through bones more efficiently.
n A software program than can rapidly extract key pieces of information from mounds of data.
n A new water filtration system.
n A low-cost production method for generating energy-efficient magnetic refrigeration to replace energy-hogging electric refrigerators.
n A petroleum recovery research system.
Teams of students are working on commercialization projects for each of those technologies as part of the university’s new tech-transfer program. About 20 students are now participating in the Center for Leadership in Technology Commercialization, which NM Tech launched in early 2014.
The program offers courses and hands-on experience for undergraduate and graduate students to acquire knowledge and skills to guide technologies to market. The students work in teams to conduct marketing studies and other tasks to help researchers commercialize new innovations.
NM Tech has raised about $400,000 in private funding for the program, Anselmo said. It’s budgeting about $80,000 per year to finance the efforts of student teams.
“There’s a lot of interest in the program on campus,” Anselmo said. “We have more demand for student teams to work on projects than we can handle.”
The university is focusing exclusively on technologies that can be patented or protected.
“If it can’t be protected, we won’t deal with it,” Anselmo said.
That emphasis on intellectual property is also a key focus of the conference, which will include a panel on protecting ideas, Anselmo said. In addition, the Wolves’ Den pitch competition will specifically highlight that theme, with participants encouraged to emphasize plans for intellectual property protection in their presentations.
The conference is open to the public. Registration costs $100, or $85 before March 15. For more information, visit http://management.nmt.edu/invent.