UNM Rainforest Innovations

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

The Place Award recognized UNM for its work, through STC, in creating the Lobo Rainforest Building at Innovate ABQ as a new model for other institutions to develop successful innovation economies within their communities and become drivers of university-based economic development.

As winner of last year’s award, STC CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer for UNM, Lisa Kuuttila, was invited to give opening remarks and introduce a session at the APLU 2019 Commission on Economic Engagement (CECE)-Council on Research (CoR) Summer Meeting.  The meeting’s theme was “Advancing Economic and Community Resiliency Through University Collaborations with Economic Development Organizations,” and was held on June 18 at Penn State University.  The conference brought together chief economic and community engagement officers, vice presidents for research and other administrators who are responsible for planning, executing, and communicating their institution’s work in economic development and public engagement.

The session highlighted case studies of IEP designated universities who are collaborating with their regional state and private economic-development organizations (EDOs).  Ms. Kuuttila spoke about the Lobo Rainforest EDA University Center entrepreneurial and training program expansion to UNM’s branch campuses this year and the importance of partnerships between universities and their  EDOs.

“UNM partners with many economic development organizations in Albuquerque and statewide.  Our role in what I call university-based economic development is very complementary to other EDOs in the state.  One of the reasons we have strong connections with our EDOs is that leaders from organizations such as Albuquerque Economic Development and the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce sit on the STC Board of Directors.”

“What I learned from talking with other university IEP winners is that our program and building are unique.  Taking the program to our branch campuses around the state through our e-commerce-for-all approach is unlike what other university programs are doing.  It benefits not only students around our rural state but regional community members as well who can take advantage of online commerce in creating new companies. It expands our placemaking statewide. Also, the Lobo Rainforest Building is the only innovation place that has students living in the building who are taking advantage of the academic programs offered by the Innovation Academy and making the connections among other tenants, including our national labs, incubators, and companies.”

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