March 23, 2004 by Jeany Llorente NMSU News Center
Innovators who want to turn their ideas into profit can look to New Mexico State University’s new Arrowhead Center Inc. for help and guidance.
“The vision for the Arrowhead Center is to be a nationally recognized leader in commercializing intellectual property for the purposes of fostering economic growth in a largely rural state by integrating academic, research and business talents in the business development process,” said Garrey Carruthers, dean of the NMSU College of Business Administration and Economics.
Officials hope the activities of the center will help create jobs, enhance student education, recruit and retain faculty, and attract and deploy venture capital to and in New Mexico.
“Through wealth generation we have job creation,” said Kevin Boberg, director of the center and associate dean of the business college. “It’s not sufficient to just generate jobs, we want to generate jobs with high wages. We don’t need more low-paying jobs in the state. We need more jobs accessible to more people at higher wages than normal.”
Boberg added that partnerships with New Mexico laboratories and other institutions of higher learning would help foster enterprises that will generate financial returns for everyone. Possible partnerships include NMSU’s Physical Science Laboratory, NMSU’s Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center, the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMT), Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
“This is a very brave and creative thing for the NMSU administration to do,” said NMSU Regent Jim Manatt. “They are blazing new trails. I applaud the administration’s leadership and willingness to be inventive and think outside the box for the benefit of the faculty as well as the institution.”
Manatt said he expects the initiative will benefit the southern New Mexico economy. “Let’s make this a truly southern New Mexico effort to transform good ideas to new jobs, clean technology ventures and create the next high-tech Mecca in the United States,” he said.
The university’s target is to work with 45 client companies per year. Boberg said initial candidates for innovation projects include a laser water purifier, a chile thinning machine, a chile sorting machine, hazardous material and/or biological agent sensors and the commercialization of communication services. The laser water purifier is based on technology developed by Albuquerque-based SALtech Corp. The others are based on technology developed at NMSU.
Boberg noted that not every client will be at the same stage of the process. He said some might have an idea but no product while others have a product but no business. Still others may have an idea, a product and a business, but need help connecting with venture capitalists.
“Depending upon where the client is, we will provide support and direct them to the appropriate resources,” he said.
Innovation Project Teams will analyze business opportunities and begin the initial planning. The business planning will involve an examination of market size, competition and profitability. The teams will be composed of students, faculty and technical advisers.
The new center hopes to build on what was done by the New Mexico State University Technology Transfer Corporation (TTC), a company that was formed when a law was passed in the late 80s that permitted universities to establish business entities. The Arrowhead Center, Boberg said, represents a renewed focus on technology development and commercialization at NMSU, and the increased interest in collaborating with other colleges and institutions. The first step toward the new initiative was taken March 8 when the NMSU Board of Regents approved changing the name from Technology Transfer Corporation to Arrowhead Center Inc.
A key ingredient in the process is student participation. Boberg said NMSU students should participate in hands-on field work and experience the excitement of achieving success.
“Education is not the mere collecting and analyzing of data, and then spewing it out in some prescribed format,” he said. “This is more than that. We want them to feel the joy of facing an ambiguous situation and winning.”
The center will also help recruit and retain faculty, he said. “The experiences of many universities who have done this suggests that they can attract more and better faculty and keep their current faculty not just for the incentive of financial reward, but for the experience of something new, something different from what they have done in the past.”