UNM Rainforest Innovations


The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) today named The University of New Mexico a 2018 Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) awardee. UNM won the IEP Place award for exemplary initiatives resulting in social, cultural, or community development.

APLU’s IEP Universities designation program helps higher education institutions codify, elevate, and advance their enterprise supporting economic and community development while providing national recognition to institutions committed to university economic development. In order to earn the designation, institutions complete a rigorous self-study and stakeholder engagement process. They identify their economic development strengths and areas of growth and improvement.

Designated institutions are eligible to compete for IEP Awards in three different categories and for a fourth top-prize that recognize the core components of “economic engagement” or the ways in which universities and their public-private partners contribute to economic and social prosperity and opportunity. The winners of the awards were announced at the 2018 APLU Annual Meeting now underway in New Orleans, La.

“We are thrilled that the Rainforest concept as a new model for developing successful innovation economies is actually taking root in the place we created for it—the Lobo Rainforest Building,” said Lisa Kuuttila, CEO & chief economic development officer for STC.UNM (STC), the University’s technology-transfer and economic-development organization.

“Since their founding, public universities have looked to spur economic development in their regions while engaging their communities,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “We applaud the winners of this year’s APLU Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Awards. Their exceptional efforts provide a model for other institutions aiming to magnify all dimensions of university-driven economic development.”

Sixty-four institutions have been named IEP University designees since the program was launched in 2012. In addition to announcing winners of the IEP University Awards today, APLU named a new class of IEP University designees. They are: University of Alabama at Birmingham; Bowling Green State University; California State University, Northridge; Florida International University; and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The IEP Place Award recognized UNM for its work, through STC, in creating the Lobo Rainforest Building at Innovate ABQ to help support research and innovation on campus. Innovate ABQ is a public-private partnership between UNM, Nusenda Credit Union, the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County that created an innovation district in the city. The Lobo Rainforest Building is located close to UNM and downtown Albuquerque, near a variety of businesses, incubators, and one of the city’s rapid transit lines.

The six-story building provides collaboration and co-working spaces supporting student entrepreneurial activities and public-private ventures and events, as well as student housing for 310 students who are enrolled in UNM’s Innovation Academy. The Lobo Rainforest Building is a human innovation ecosystem, housing STC’s offices and UNM’s startup incubator, the Cecchi Venture Lab. Fifteen startups are located in the building, as well as the offices of two of the state’s national labs—Sandia National Laboratories and the Air Force Research Laboratory-New Mexico—and General Atomics, a global engineering firm and defense contractor. General Atomics has its first physical presence in Albuquerque in the building. The building currently has a 100 percent occupancy rate.

There were six finalists for the 2018 IEP Awards. In addition to the four winners, finalists included Iowa State University and North Carolina State University.

APLU is a research, policy, and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. With a membership of 238 public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems and affiliated organizations, APLU’s agenda is built on the three pillars of increasing degree completion and academic success, advancing scientific research and expanding engagement. Annually, member campuses enroll 4.8 million undergraduates and 1.3 million graduate students, award 1.2 million degrees, employ 1.3 million faculty and staff, and conduct $44.9 billion in university-based research.

For more information, visit APLU.

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