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NMSU Arrowhead Center’s third Innovation Summit a success

Small businesses from across the nation met at the Albuquerque Marriott Pyramid North to learn about federal funding opportunities for their innovative ideas.


The New Mexico Federal and State Technology Partnership Program at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center hosted their third New Mexico Department of Defense SBIR/STTR Innovation Summit Dec. 11, 2019. The event expanded on the success of previous years, with attendees coming in from across the country. The summit was also broadcast to 10 satellite locations in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Montana, North Dakota and Washington. A Facebook live stream also helped the summit reach a wider audience. Across all platforms, the event had over 370 attendees.

The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs provide equity-free federal research and development dollars to small businesses to move their technology further along the commercialization pathway, a key driver for regional economic development and growth. Eleven federal agencies participate in the SBIR and STTR programs.

These programs are a strong example of how investment into the innovation ecosystem drives small business growth forward.

“Innovation and commercialization of New Mexico technology through the federal SBIR/STTR is probably one of the best programs in the state,” said John Garcia, New Mexico District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration. “There’s a lot of funding available in research and technology initiatives.”

This is great news for New Mexico businesses, as New Mexico currently ranks 19th in the nation for the number of SBIR and STTR awards, and was granted 70 awards totaling $42.5 million in 2018.

The summit focused on the Department of Defense, which uses SBIR and STTR programs to solve critical mission problems they face. The panels at the event highlighted driving innovation forward through successful engagement with SBIR and STTR programs.

Panels included an overview of the SBIR process from registration to commercialization, complimentary funding opportunities, and budgeting and accounting tips for proposal submission and contract management.

During the working lunch presentation, staff from the New Mexico Procurement Technical Assistance Center presented new regulations in data protection and best practices for cyber security. Each panel provided interactive Q&A sessions where attendees learned from these experts and were able to ask questions.

A highlight of this year’s Innovation Summit was a special presentation by Navy and Air Force personnel with an accompanying Fireside Chat, where they addressed recent changes to their SBIR and STTR programs. During this session, they clarified application and acquisition processes, as well as how applicants will benefit in the future.

“A small business can benefit from the Innovation Summit by getting first-hand knowledge from the folks that actually run the programs and hear from them what they expect from your small businesses here in New Mexico, how to compete for those dollars, and how to best refine your proposals for that funding,” said Rick Shindell, president of Zyn Systems. “It’s dynamic and you will learn new things from year to year when you attend the Innovation Summit.”

The summit also offered attendees an exclusive opportunity for private one-on-one sessions that allowed small businesses to speak directly with representatives from Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Air Systems Command, the Air Force Research Laboratory, and NASA. Local programs like the Procurement and Technical Assistance Center and the New Mexico Small Business Assistance program also participated in one-on-ones. In total, NM FAST facilitated 69 one-on-one sessions during the event.

In addition, the summit grew to include an informal networking event the night before. Summit attendees were invited to gather at Dialogue Brewery in Albuquerque, where they had the opportunity to meet with Air Force and Navy program managers, moderators and panelists, and key decision makers, and network with those who might be able to help drive their innovation forward.

“I’m seeing a lot of capabilities, technically, that a lot of New Mexico small businesses are bringing to the table. As a representative of the Air Force Research Lab, I deal a lot with the SBIR projects that the Air Force puts out, am I’m seeing a lot of capability that’s right here in New Mexico being brought to bear for some of the problems that we have,” said Gabe Mounce, director of the Air Force Space Accelerator Program at the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“Arrowhead Center has been instrumental in helping small businesses in New Mexico, and that’s why the Air Force Research Lab has come alongside them to partner on an event like the Summit, because we think it’s important to help New Mexican businesses be able to access federal government dollars.” said Mounce. “NMSU and the Arrowhead Center have been foundational to that.”

The growth of the summit has been a highlight for Arrowhead Center at NMSU, where the NM FAST Partnership Program is housed. Now in its fifth year of funding, the NM FAST program helps New Mexico-based small businesses navigate the submission process for their SBIR/STTR proposal packages, no matter the agency.

“The biggest takeaway is that there are a lot of resources to help small businesses in New Mexico pursue federal funding opportunities through the SBIR/STTR program,” said Kathryn Hansen, director and chief executive officer of Arrowhead Center. “The NM FAST program helps facilitate access to those resources.”

The NM FAST program is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.