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NMSU-based NM FAST program recognized with 2020 Tibbetts Award

The U.S. Small Business Administration has recognized the New Mexico Federal and State Technology Partnership Program, housed at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, with the 2020 Tibbetts Award in recognition of the program’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) achievements.


Two women and a man standing next to a display board
The U.S. Small Business Administration has recognized the New Mexico Federal and State Technology Partnership Program, housed at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, with the 2020 Tibbetts Award. From left, John Garcia, district director of SBA's New Mexico District Office; Brittany Sickler, senior innovation policy adviser for the SBA Office of Innovation and Technology; and Dana Catron, director of Strategic Operations and SBIR program director for Arrowhead Center at NMSU, participated in a 2019 SBA event. (Courtesy photo)

The Tibbetts Award, named after SBIR program founder Roland Tibbets, recognizes exemplary companies, organizations and individuals who demonstrate the goals of the SBIR/STTR programs. These goals seek to promote innovation, commercialization, technology transfer and cooperatives between small businesses and research institutions, and encourage diversity within innovation and entrepreneurship.

“The development, expansion, and success of entrepreneurial and economic development ecosystems require several key fundamental elements,” NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said. “The NM FAST program and its continued support of SBIR and STTR in New Mexico is one of those foundational elements. Arrowhead’s work over the last six years to build this incredible program and resource – work that warrants national attention such as the Tibbetts Award – is a testament to the sustained effort by all involved.”

This year, 38 companies, seven organizations and 14 individuals were recognized for their accomplishments within the SBIR/STTR programs. NM FAST was one of seven organizations awarded.

“We are incredibly honored to receive this award,” said Dana Catron, SBIR program director and director of Strategic Operations at Arrowhead. “Six years ago, we identified a gap in New Mexico’s innovation ecosystem. There was no affordable support available for SBIR/STTR proposal development assistance. Over the last six years, and with the support of SBA FAST funding, our team has built an incredible program and resource for New Mexico’s startup community, and has gone over and beyond to ensure programming and assistance evolve to meet the unique challenges our clients face.”

The establishment of NM FAST in 2015 created a space in New Mexico dedicated to guiding small businesses through SBIR and STTR proposal development programming and assistance, particularly focusing on serving first-time applicants. The program’s mission from the onset has been to provide support to underserved populations within the state, adapting branding and mentor matching to resonate with new and prospective applicants. In this time, 23% of NM FAST’s clients have been rural businesses, 36% are minority-owned, 31% are women-owned, and 89% are first-time applicants.

“For Arrowhead clients, more than 100 have submitted applications and most say they would not have been able to get the proposals together without Arrowhead FAST assistance,” said New Mexico Economic Development Department Cabinet Secretary Alicia Keyes. “In 2020 alone, FAST clients received over $5.5 million of investment.”

NM FAST was built from the ground up, providing tailored services for each client. To meet the needs of SBIR and STTR applicants and awardees, NM FAST offers small businesses an online tools and resource library, free SBIR/STTR proposal development assistance and review, micro-grants, free workshops and engagement activities throughout New Mexico, multi-week SBIR/STTR accelerators, annual SBIR/STTR Innovation Summit, monthly newsletters and agency blasts for each solicitation, and a video podcast series.

“We took a creative approach to how we were delivering proposal development assistance, and developed resources like YouTube videos and agency email blasts that are designed to quickly disseminate information for busy clients,” Catron said. “One of our hallmark programs – the Arrowhead Center SBIR Accelerator – has proven incredibly successful, and guides participants through the entire proposal development process, from registration to submission.”

In its five-year history, NM FAST has demonstrated its growth in capacity, serving 193 SBIR/STTR clients, assisting an average of 30 clients per quarter, and nine new intakes per quarter. Across 70 outreach and assistance workshops and events throughout New Mexico, 12 communities have been reached, with 75% of them being rural. NM FAST has also awarded over $50,000 in up to $2,000 micro-grants to clients over the life of the program for proposal development assistance. Since 2015, New Mexico small businesses supported by NM FAST have received over $9.4 million in SBIR/STTR funding.

NM FAST contributes to a growing technology and innovation ecosystem in New Mexico, helping clients leverage complementary programs and funding offered to small businesses throughout the state, providing a pipeline for continued economic growth of SBIR/STTR applicants and awardees. This pipeline connects clients with other research institutions throughout the state including NMSU, the University of New Mexico, Air Force Research Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

To learn more about NM FAST and the different programs and services they offer, visit https://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/program/nm-fast/.