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NMSU-based NM FAST program to host workshop for Navajo startups

The Navajo Nation is ripe for innovation. They have been entrepreneurs for hundreds of years, creating and selling handmade products and art that are renowned worldwide. While known for their art, there is untapped potential in the innovative technology space by Navajo-led startups. More business development and growth assistance by these startups will be a critical component in creating economic growth for the region.

Organizations such as the Navajo Tech Innovation Center, or NTIC, in Church Rock, N.M., are committed to supporting Navajo-led start-up ventures and entrepreneurs. NTIC provides space, expertise, and assistance to the community, and is a satellite location for Studio G, Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University’s student business accelerator program. NTIC also facilitates workshops that educate the community on topics like funding opportunities and support programs.

On June 20, NTIC will host a Small Business Innovation Research/ Small Business Technology Transfer workshop in conjunction with the New Mexico Federal and State Technology Partnership program at Arrowhead Center to give attendees an overview of the SBIR/STTR programs, information on how those programs grow small businesses, and some critical information to consider when creating a proposal package.

Known as America’s “seed fund,” SBIR and STTR programs are an example of funding that can provide essential early-stage support to Navajo-led start-ups. The programs, operational for more than 25 years and focused on taking innovative ideas to the commercial market, are the largest source of non-dilutive funding for small businesses in the country.

Additionally, the workshop will place a special emphasis placed on the United States Department of Agriculture, one of the 12 agencies that participate in the SBIR program. Under their mission, the USDA focuses on technologies that support high-quality research in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits. This covers everything from new types of crops, to field technologies for agriculture, to water and soil conservation, and even rural and community development.

For New Mexico and the Navajo Nation, this presents a wealth of opportunities, as these are critical growth drivers for the state.

“NM Fast offers vital resources of technical assistance and SBIR/STTR funding opportunities for innovative products and/or services especially if you are a member of the Navajo Nation,” said Ben Jones, director of the Ke’yah Advanced Rural Manufacturing Alliance, or KARMA. “We at KARMA proactively seek new advanced technology initiatives on Navajo, and work with NM Fast to access resources in both technical assistance and SBIR funding that can bring viable technological ideas to the marketplace that can build key industry partnerships.”

The NM FAST program, which is supported by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, works to improve the participation of small businesses in federal SBIR STTR programs for innovative, technology-driven small businesses. NM FAST has been gaining traction in New Mexico by offering statewide workshops, mentoring, and micro-grant awards for eligible small businesses.

NM FAST provides small businesses with:
-- Assistance in identifying appropriate solicitations and topic areas;
-- How-to information on agency registrations and electronic proposal submission;
-- Guidance on proposal preparation, including assessments of technical objectives and hypotheses and drafting supporting documents such as biographical sketches, resources and budgets;
-- Specifics on the target agency’s requirements for commercialization content in Phase I/Phase II proposals; and
-- Technical reviews and edits of proposals with feedback.

In addition, NM FAST provides select first-time awardees micro-grants of $650 to cover the expenses of professional services such as commercialization plan assistance, development partner identification assistance, research partner identification assistance, counsel on patents and technology licensing, and indirect cost rate advisement, for proposal development.

To register for the free workshop, please visit: https://bit.ly/2H1ecnk
For more information, contact Dana Catron, program manager for the NM FAST program, at 505-358-4039 or dderego@ad.nmsu.edu. NM FAST is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.