UNM Rainforest Innovations

On March 7, the Innovate New Mexico Technology Showcase took place at the Event Center at Sandia Casino & Resort. This year marked the tenth showcase to date and the first in several years to be held back in-person.

“We were very pleased with the turnout of the showcase,” said Lisa Kuuttila, CEO & Chief Economic Development Officer at UNM Rainforest Innovations. “In addition to highlighting all of the research and technology at the state’s seven research institutes, it’s also an opportunity for people to form new connections and learn about innovations happening right here in the state.”

Innovate New Mexico is an annual event featuring the latest developments in research and technology from seven research institutions across the state including the University of New Mexico (UNM), the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), Los Alamos National Lab (LANL), Sandia National Labs (Sandia), NASA-White Sands Test Facility and Johnson Space Center, New Mexico Tech, and New Mexico State University (NMSU).

Researchers from these institutions were invited to pitch their technologies to industry representatives and investors; leaders and business community members were invited to participate in panel discussions and presentations; and startup companies were invited to showcase their company products and latest activities. A panel of sharks were also invited to provide clarifying questions during each technology presentation. The sharks included Mark Farrell, Managing Director of Thayer Ventures,Abhi Mukherjee, Operating Partner of CerraCap Ventures, Peter Schmitz, Partner at Tamarindo Partners LLC, and Drew Tulchin, President of the New Mexico Angels, Inc.

Welcome and Keynote Speaker

The event kicked off with opening remarks by Jon Clark, Deputy Secretary at the New Mexico Economic Development Department followed by keynote speaker Norman Winarsky, PhD, General Partner at America’s Frontier Fund where he is responsible for leading investments and incubation efforts across foundational technologies.

Previously Dr. Winarsky was a Partner at Relay Ventures focusing on AI and Mobility systems. He is also VC-in-Residence at Platform Venture Studio, Lecturer in Management at Stanford GSB, and past President of Stanford Research Institute (SRI) Ventures. For this division he led all commercialization activities, including venture creation and licensing. Norman is also actively engaged in advising, investing in, and building multiple startups. In 1992, Norman and Curt Carlson co-founded SRI’s strategy for creating, building, and launching ventures. Since then, the total market value of ventures spun out of SRI exceeds $70B. Examples include Nuance Communications, Intuitive Surgical, Orchid Cellmark, and Siri. Norman has a Ph.D. in mathematics from University of Chicago, and holds six patents in computer vision, artificial intelligence, and electron optics.

Technology Capabilities in New Mexico

Following the keynote speech were three presentations by Joachim Lohn-Jaramillo, PhD, Aerospace Engineer at Spaceport America; Walt Ugalde, Economic Development Executive at NASA; and Darlene Harbour, President of Lovelace Scientific Resources.

Technology Presentations Moderated by Colleen Pastuovic

There was a networking break followed by the first portion of technology presentations, moderated by Colleen Pastuovic, Regional Technology Commercialization Project Manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Richard P. Feynman Center for Innovation. The presentations included:

  • Inattentive HF and TMAH Concentration Vapors Phase Release of Micro-electro-mechanical and Systems – Tito Busani, PhD, Assistant Professor, UNM and Ravi Chityala, PhD, Research Assistant, UNM
  • Renewed Interest in Nanoparticles as a Gene Delivery Platform – Achraf Noureddine, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, UNM
  • nDETECT: Tunable Nanoporous-Based Sensors for the Near Zero Power Detection of Gaseous Pollutants – Mara Schindelholz, PhD, Princial Investigator, Sandia

Lunch and Panel Discussion

The lunch break included a panel discussion on Companies in New Mexico moderated by Michael Doyle, PhD, Vice President of Research at New Mexico Tech. Members of the panel included Alex Hafez, PhD, Vice President of Operations & Corporate Development and Co-Founder of Circular Genomics; Jonathan Hebert, PhD, Founder & CEO of Lojo Engineering; John Chavez, Chief Financial Officer at ORC Tech; and Andrew Clark, Co-Founder & CEO of Hoonify.

Technology Presentations Moderated by Patricia Knighten

The next technology presentations were moderated by Patricia Knighten, Director of Innovation Commercialization at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center. The presentations included:

  • Continuous High-Speed Determination of Aflatoxins in Pistachios and Other Crops – Gary A. Eiceman, PhD, Professor, NMSU
  • Carbon Membranes for H2 Production – Harshul Thakkar, PhD, Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • OAM Photonics – Cliff Chan, Fellow, New Mexico LEEP

Technology Presentations Moderated by Melissa Ortiz

The next technology presentations were moderated by Melissa Ortiz at New Mexico Tech. The presentations included:

  • Green Desalination – Ashok Ghosh, PhD, PE, Associate Professor, New Mexico Tech
  • Identifying Market Opportunities for High Temperature Emission Treatment Catalysts – Christopher Riley, PhD, Sandia
  • Leveraging AI and Smart Context to Dramatically Improve HCI and Assistive Communication Technology – Joan Esse Wilson, PhD, CCC-SLP, Assistant Professor, NMSU and Tianna M. Zambrano, MA, SLP-CF, NMSU

The Importance of Collaboration

The last panel discussion of the day, The Importance of Collaboration, was moderated by Sara Telano, Deputy Branch Chief at AFRL and members of the panel included Andreas Schmitt-Sody, PhD, Deputy Chief Scientist and Directed Energy Directorate at AFRL; Lauren Hunt, PhD, Deputy Program Manager at the Space Force Accelerators Program at AFRL; and Capt. Joshua Garretson, Chief of the Laser Systems Technologies Section at AFRL.

Closing Remarks

Closing remarks were given by Brian Birk, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Sun Mountain Capital and Melinda Allen, President & CEO or the New Mexico Partnership.

We would like to thank the generous sponsors of the event including Air Force Research Laboratory, Arrowhead Center at NMSU, New Mexico Economic Development Department, Federal Laboratory Consortium, New Mexico MEP (Manufacturing Extension partnership), New Mexico Tech, Feynman Center for Innovation at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories.

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