July 4, 2014. Retrieved online July 8, 2014 from Alta LeCompte, Las Cruces Bulletin
National labs give NM innovators edge
[Excerpts below reprinted with permission: Read the complete Las Cruces Bulletin article]
Spontaneously or intentionally, humans reveal a range of emotion by their facial expressions.
Now, with LED technology developed with assistance from Sandia National Laboratory, a doll can mimic facial movements with which humans show emotion.
The doll, for sale on amazon.com, is the brainchild of a New Mexico innovator who needed help to evolve the technology from concept to production.
She found that assistance at Sandia National Laboratory, where she worked with two engineers to get it right.
New Mexico, it turns out, is the only state in the U.S. where businesses can tap into the brainpower of national labs to solve problems at no cost to the businesses.
NMSBA takes solutions statewide
The partnership with which New Mexicans access into national lab expertise is unique to New Mexico.
The Legislature created the laboratory partnership in 2000 with passage of the Small Business Tax Credit Act.
Sandia developed the New Mexico Small Business Assistance program, and Los Alamos joined in 2007.
The universities participate as contractors because they don’t pay taxes and thus can’t receive tax credits.
The university or lab will identify where the appropriate expertise is available and the innovator will be connected with a principal investigator who will tackle their project.
From 2000 through 2012, some 2,036 businesses representing 33 New Mexico counties were assisted and 2,874 jobs were created or retained as a result of the partnership. The labs provided $34.3 million worth of technical assistance.
Jackie Kerby Moore, Sandia’s economic development director, said, however, that all kinds of businesses work with NMSBA. Clients include a spa seeking technology to transfer heat from its springs to its hotel rooms and a coffee company addressing inventory transportation issues.
Local entrepreneurs benefit
Among the program’s clients are Arrowhead’s Kramer Winingham of 35 Solar and Mike Lisk, owner of Remote Well Solutions LLC.
The two entrepreneurs shared their experiences partnering with national lab experts at an NMSBA presentation June 19 at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, an integral part of the NMSBA.
“We’re ranchers as well, and we needed a well in a remote place,” Lisk said of the origin of the off-grid pumping system he developed to run on a propane generator and solar power.
He needed to get water to his livestock.
“Sandia Labs − the thing that surprised me was the tremendous tool box of resources and knowledge here for the asking,” he said, urging other innovators to seek help when they need it. “The guys are great, they’re real people − not white coats.”
Although Remote Well Solutions’ system saves as much as 60 percent in fuel costs and offers other advantages as well, Lisk found his fellow ranchers reluctant to try a new technology.
Arrowhead’s Griselda Martinez assessed the system and advised him on how to overcome ranchers’ resistance to the system and bring the technology to market for oil wells and the forest service as well.
Remote Well Solutions recently was chosen as the sole source provider to the New Mexico Forest Service and the Arizona Forest Service campgrounds, Lisk said. He currently is in discussions with Native American communities he believes could also benefit from using the new technology.
Labs assist local farms
Among the national lab projects benefiting Doña Ana County farmers is one in which Los Alamos evaluated hydro-generation for Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID). Four county farmers were the clients.
With Sandia, five farms collectively received $100,000 worth of assistance for an intensive production system with year round cover crops and other measure to improve fertility and build organic matter. The lab provided technical assistance to measure carbon sequestration.
“The PIs (principal investigators) at the labs and universities working on top-security projects can’t talk about tell us how rewarding it is for them to use their brain in a different way, for something that has an immediate impact,” she told the audience at Arrowhead. “The appreciation goes both ways.”