Innovation Door

Smart Grid Project in New Mexico

This week marked the celebration of the opening of the NEDO Smart Grid Project in New Mexico.  NEDO, Japan’s government organization responsible for promoting research and development as well as dissemination of industrial, energy and environmental technologies, has five global smart community projects.  New Mexico is the first (others in the future will be in Hawaii, France, Spain, and China).  The Smart Grid project will demonstrate a microgrid with various energy sources using the latest technologies.  Partners from Japan in the project, in addition to NEDO, are Shimizu Corporation, Toshiba Corporation, Sharp Corporation, Meidensha Corporation, Fuji Electric Co., Ltd., Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., Furukawa Electric Co., Ltd., Furukawa Battery Co., Ltd.  Partners in the US are Mesa del Sol, the location of the Albuquerque demonstration project, PNM, Sandia and the University of New Mexico.  STC has been actively involved supporting the project as well, since its initial discussions, more than 5 years ago.  It is very exciting to see the project progress to this stage!

Lisa Kuuttila, President & CEO, STC.UNM

When the Elephants Dance: Power Politics and Patent Policy

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Christopher Gallagher was the keynote speaker at STC’s 2012 Creative Awards event last night.  The title of his speech is noted above.  Chris sees great promise for the New Mexico innovation ecosystem, even in the face of more challenges imposed by the recent AIA legislation. 

Lisa Kuuttila, President & CEO, STC.UNM

Here is an excerpt of the text of Chris Gallagher’s speech:

I extend my heart-felt congratulations to all of tonight’s honorees. It’s exciting to meet you and see your inventions and copyrights. I am delighted to be in the company of such esteemed members of New Mexico’s culture.

After 7 years of Capitol-Hill-combat over Patent Reform and its impact on innovative scientific research I cannot overstate how pleased I am to be with real participants in its discovery, development and commercialization – people who understand what it means to be part of a productive innovation ecosystem.  Ecosystems are complicated.

Moving inventions along the continuum from lab bench to store shelf, YOU must embrace the unknown and risk your human and financial capital, while collaborating on a self-selected “pick-up” team, sharing shifting leadership and even ownership, as inventions are refined and developed on their way to commercialization.

Innovation ecosystems are resources in reserve called upon when needed to tackle the unknown.  Here at UNM you have repeatedly brought order out of the chaos of curiosity-driven scientific research and watched it thrive in functional independence as start-ups. You have every reason to be proud.

Such economic miracles require special leadership, which is why I am so pleased to be here at Lisa’s invitation. Lisa Kuuttila’s national reputation is unparalleled.  You are lucky to enjoy her leadership here at STC. We are lucky to have her counsel in Washington.

Some have asked about the reference to “dancing elephants” in the title to my remarks. They call to mind an old Asian adage … “When the elephants dance, little creatures must beware.” The warning’s jungle implications are clear enough but … What do dancing elephants have to do with patents, policy, and power politics in our nation’s capital? How do they help us understand the American Invents Act – or AIA, as I will say hereafter? How does AIA affect your thriving innovation ecosystem? And … What can and should be done about it?

Tonight is not a time to answer such important questions in the depth they deserve. Having raised them – I will sketch some answers in the hope that later, you will do the work you must to keep your innovation ecosystem strong and healthy even after AIA is fully in place. The news is not all good, but I promise that if you make the effort soon – and get it right – your innovation ecosystem can and will survive AIA. AND it will out-perform the ecosystems of your sister states.

Understanding AIA requires understanding Washington. The elephant “dancers” in my title are the nation’s giant market incumbents, whose ample resources create and shape the “Washington Consensus.” They are the global IT mega-tech and multinational Leviathans who provide political support to Capital Hill’s incumbent. They occupy our IP community’s downstream environs. Their private sector business model differs from STC’s.  Their use of research does, as well.

The “deliberative tinkering” of scientific research moves at its own pace through serendipitous discovery and evolution. The art of science research includes its inefficiency. It is about teaching students careful pace – and patience – while serving the public whose government funding makes it possible.

Established companies move pre-defined products to pre‑selected markets. Efficient execution is what enables them to thrive in cut-throat global competition.  Their research needs are more short-term … largely incremental … and market directed.

The lines separating scientific and incremental research are not always clear. It is their purposes that differentiate them. We know that both types are worthwhile and economically important but I am confident that YOU at least appreciate the differences between them.

AIA is best understood, when YOU understand that it is the product of a partnership between well-resourced market incumbents and the powerful incumbents in congressional leadership whose continued incumbency depends on special interest support. Unfortunately, YOU are the “little creatures” who had best beware when these elephants are dancing.

The early-stage innovation landscape has changed, for you and everyone involved upstream in independent early-stage innovation. This includes students, faculty, university administrative infrastructure, tech transfer offices (TTOs), economic development personnel, myriad private sector management, marketing and legal advisors and funders of public and private capital whose collective and collaborative support is so critical to navigating the continuum from test tube to tank car. The change has not been for the better.

Here’s why:  Information exchange is enhanced by the expectation of respect, trust and safety. And information exchange is what drives creativity and eventual success. Where mutual trust, fair play and favorable expectations are present, communication will happen. Where competitive hostility and selfish attitudes prevail, information sharing is dangerous and risky.

Like sea-water on the reef and the unconscious interactions of rainforest flora and fauna, the medium that lubricates the volume and velocity of information flow among participants in the innovation ecosystems is expectations about behavior. When inventions’ refinement and development require sharing non-rival intellectual property, mutual trust contributes far more than the random contacts in strategically clustered physical architectures so often touted as the key to creativity. It is not.

Indeed physical proximity often stimulates competitive rather than cooperative behavior. And if behavior is the key, then ecosystem culture is what unlocks the door.  It is the key that unlocks trusted and complete communication within the system.

Knowing before committing that an innovation ecosystem’s participants behave in ways that make informational transactions more fluid will encourage more contributors to join the network. How does AIA affect these expectations?

There is no doubt that when fully effective AIA will have weakened patent reliability and collaborative trust.  It will have lengthened the time for return on everyone’s investment whether it be human or financial capital. And, it will divert effort, resources and PI attention from the task at hand to costly compliance process and more uncertainty.  Unless these AIA investment barriers are OFFSET by other adjustments to lubricate and energize our innovation ecosystems, their productive volume and velocity will diminish. The problem is uncertainty.

Uncertainty defines the price of risk assumption.  Decisions to invest in early-stage innovation now must be tempered by the possibility that its technology will never see the light of day. We know that basic research is too risky for any investment except by government as a service to the public and as a source of economic growth. Its independent later-stage financing comes from investors whose diverse portfolios can mitigate their risk.

Worse, next March, AIA converts our centuries-old “first to invent” filing format to “harmonize” our PTO with most other countries who utilize a “first to file” format to establish patent validity although they cannot match our innovation output. Canada made a similar switch in 1989 and is still scrambling to revive its lost start-up capability. “First to file” sounds simple enough, but it necessitates repeal of our unique grace period, heavily relied upon by researchers to preserve their IP rights during research. Today’s grace periods accommodate the serendipitous pace of solitary, otherwise internal basic research and they support the complex collaborative and capital demands required to commercialize it.

In economic terms, AIA’s diminution of patent protection and added challenge and opportunity increase the “transaction costs” of participation in the independent ecosystem.  These additional transaction costs will no doubt deter private, independent investment in potential start-ups.

Basic research is mission critical. Largely funded by Congress, most of America’s basic research is conducted in our distributed array of research universities, for whom pure scientific research connects its other missions of student education and service to the public. Congress and the Administration are in rare agreement that high risk basic research must be funded publicly. Federal grant makers are now actively promoting more cross discipline collaboration and accelerated commercialization at a time when the post AIA environment has made these express objectives more difficult, dangerous and costly. The administration and Congress itself are pushing hard for start-ups.

Meanwhile in another ironic trend, DC bookshelves are now bending under the weight of new books about the wonders of innovation. Two stand out above the rest.

“Rainforest,” authored by two smart venture capitalists, explains how and why innovation works well some places but not others with similar characteristics. It outlines the mechanics and importance of the information networks and communication flow within our innovation ecosystems. After explaining how own evolved behavior often causes frictions that can clog the arteries of our innovation ecosystems they demonstrate information flow’s importance. They also demonstrate how – by changing our behavior – that by unclogging and eliminating those frictions – we can make our systems more productive and more creative, by increasing the volume and velocity of information flow. No reference is made to AIA, but their suggestions on how to energize our innovation ecosystems ALSO point the way to properly adapting to AIA’s elevation of artery-clogging transaction costs.“Rainforest” is required reading for anyone looking to offset those costs by cost reductions elsewhere in the system.

Another must-read is “Start-up Nation” which tells how Israel has earned that name by using its cultural characteristics to boost private investment in a small isolated country with few natural resources to the point where it produces more start-up companies than most of the world’s largest economies.

Together these two books point to New Mexico’s post-AIA pathway to saving its start-up alternative by further energizing its innovation ecosystem by offsetting the handicaps imposed by AIA. If as I am told, your state’s cultural characteristics favor fairness, trust, innovative independence, respect for other’s property and a tendency to pull together when self-sacrifice and group support are needed, not selfish behavior. Properly crafted behavioral norms can be deployed to OFFSET the AIA’s increased transaction costs.

Like Israel, New Mexico is small enough to carry this off and to do so quickly allowing you to move ahead, before the innovation ecosystems of other states and cities have figured this out. But you also can let it be known that in New Mexico you expect fair behavior and will enforce it by making it a condition of further entry. Create your behavioral norms here and enforce them your own way in your own space. You, too, have the leadership and collective capacity to make this adjustment. And when you do, your innovation ecosystem will project its unique brand and will attract more volume.

If this sounds like pie in the sky, another very recent book by famed Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson lays out the mathematically supported fact that we have within us strong evolutionary inclinations to support the group even if the group is not limited to tribe or family. To survive, innovation ecosystems must offset AIA’s transaction cost impositions on the commercialization of basic research by establishing normative behavior to reduce communicative friction. The nationwide investment pool will shrink but those who still want to invest will drift to where such investment is more likely to succeed.

States that get there first will be the winners. You can do it!

STC.UNM 2012 Creative Awards

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On April 25, 2012, STC will be recognizing many of its talented inventors who have received issued patents or copyrights in the past year.  In addition, it will also recognize one outstanding inventor who has achieved a substantial body of intellectual property and commercialization.  This year’s recipient of the Innovation Fellow Award is Steve Hersee.  Steve embodies the Innovation Fellow Awards — he is not only a talented researcher and teacher, but truly wants to see his innovations translated into the commercial arena, whenever possible.  By doing so, he helps to bring the benefits of his research to public benefit.  We salute Steve for his accomplishments!

Lisa Kuuttila, President & CEO, STC.UNM

15th Annual Einstein Society Gala

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I had the opportunity to attend the Einstein Society Gala and the privilege to present the National Award of Nuclear Science & History to Dr. Lisa Randall on March 17th.

Dr. Randall is an amazing individual.  In addition to her scholarly work in the field of theoretical particle physics and cosmology, currently Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, she is actively pursuing creative endeavors in the arts and music.  Perhaps most importantly to many of us, she makes a strong case for the importance of science and why science is so critical to our future.  Her latest book is entitled, Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World, which I highly recommend!

I am pictured above with Jim Walther, Director of the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.  The museum is one of the many treasures we have in New Mexico, and highlights the strength of our scientific community here.

Lisa Kuuttila, President & CEO, STC.UNM


Turning the Tides: New Mexico-Born Materials for Japanese Cars

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STC.UNM sponsored a seminar on campus today with speaker Dr. Plamen Atanassov, Professor, UNM Dept. of Chemical & Nuclear Engineering and Associate Dean for Research, UNM School of Engineering.  The University of New Mexico is a leader in the area of nanomaterials research including fuel cell catalysts.  Research conducted at UNM by Plamen’s group, in collaboration with Daihatsu, has resulted in the development of catalysts for a hydrazine hydrate-based fuel cell vehicle.  It is a great example of the active engagement with industry at UNM by a prolific inventor.

Lisa Kuuttila, President & CEO, STC.UNM

Partnership with UCIP and Visit to Japan

STC.UNM has an MOU with a consortium of 11 Japanese universities, called UCIP.  The goal of our partnership is encouraging research and technology transfer collaborations.  UCIP invited two STC staff members to attend and speak an international symposium in Tokyo called the International-Academia Collaboration on February 27, 2012 with an Technology Informational Exchange meeting the next day.  The Symposium was attended by 80 people from universities, government and industry in Japan.  STC gave two presentations:  I spoke about how STC has developed its technology transfer program and Eri Hoshi from STC spoke about STC’s operations, including its internship program.  We had a wonderful exchange and continue to further develop relationships for our respective institutions.

Lisa Kuuttila, President & CEO

STC.UNM

Congratulations to Gap Fund Awardees

Four projects were selected for funding from STC and UNM from the many gap fund proposals submitted.  We want to issue our congratulations to the following UNM PIs for their awards.  If you have an interest in any of the projects below, please contact us at info@stc.unm.edu or 505-272-7900.

Mahmoud Reda Taha, Department of Civil Engineering, A New Generation of Polymer Concrete

Angela Wandinger-Ness, Carolyn Muller, and Laurie Hudson, Departments of Pathology, Obstretrics & Gynecology, and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Small GTPases as Novel Targets in Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Ravi Durvasula, Department of Internal Medicine: Center for Global Health, A Novel Class of Multi-Colored Recombinant Antibodies

Andrea Mammoli, Thomas Caudell, Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering

Generators and Commercializers

Technology commercialization represents a pipeline from invention to product or process.  Two major components in the process are 1) the faculty, student and staff inventors and 2) the commercialization vehicle, which could be a new start-up company. STC has recently saluted the efforts of both of these groups.

 STC issued a 2012 calendar showcasing 12 talented University of New Mexico faculty inventors and their amazing technologies.  The inventions of these 12 faculty have led to the creation of six start-up companies, all based in New Mexico, and many other licenses with established companies.  If you would like copies of the calendar, please contact STC at 505-272-7900 or info@stc.unm.edu.  The faculty highlighted in this years calendar are:


David G. Whitten, Ph.D.

Research Professor, UNM Department of Chemical & Nuclear Engineering

Center for Biomedical Engineering

 

Brian Hjelle, M.D., Professor

UNM Departments of Pathology, Biology and Molecular Genetics & Microbiology

Center for Infectious Diseases & Immunity

Director, UNM MD-PhD Program

 

Lorraine Deck, Ph.D.

Emerita Professor

UNM Department of Chemistry & Chemical Biology

 

David L. VanderJagt, Ph.D.

Research Professor

UNM Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

 

Luke F. Lester, Ph.D.

Interim Chair and Professor

UNM Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Center for High Technology Materials

 

Wilmer Sibbitt, M.D.

Professor

UNM Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology

 

Mansoor Sheik-Bahae, Ph.D.

Professor

UNM Department of Physics & Astronomy

STC Board Member

 

Carolyn Mold, Ph.D.

Professor

UNM Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology

 

Majeed M. Hayat, Ph.D.

Professor

UNM Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Center for High Technology Materials

 

Terry W. Du Clos, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor

UNM Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology

Chief, Division of Rheumatology, Albuquerque Veterans Affairs Medical Center

 

Sanjay Krishna, Ph.D.

Professor

UNM Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Associate Director, Center for High Technology Materials

 

Cheryl L. Willman, M.D.

Director & CEO, UNM Cancer Center

Professor

UNM Department of Pathology

 

STC, UNM’s Office of VP for Research and HSC’s Office of Research recognized the impact that the start-up companies based in New Mexico are making in diversifying our economy.  The following companies received recognition in a recent Albuquerque Journal edition:

 

            AgilVax

            AVANCA Medical Devices, Inc.

            Avisa Pharma

            Azano Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

            Comet Solutions, Inc.

            Intellicyt

            K&A Wireless, LLC

            Lotus Leaf Coatings

            Nanocrystal

            nanoMR

            ProtoHit

            Respira Therapeutics

            SK Infrared, LLC

            ThermoDynamic Films, LLC

 

We want to thank the “generators” of technologies, our inventors, as well as the “commercializers” of technologies, the start-up companies, for the contribution they are making in bringing valuable innovations to the marketplace.

 

Lisa Kuuttila

President & CEO, STC.UNM

 

Technology Presentations as Fuel for Potential Start-Ups 
To highlight some of our latest opportunities available, we often present STC technologies to entrepreneurs and/or investors in an efficient format.   We start by inviting in these individuals and finding out what technology areas are of interest to the entrepreneur or investors.   We browse our portfolio to find the technologies that we feel will be the best match for that person.
The format is a short one-slide description of each technology usually consisting of a presentation of 10-15 technologies.   These are technologies that might be better suited as a start-up company.  A compelling elevator pitch is prepared for each technology that describes the problem, UNM’s innovative technology and the advantages and applications that make the technology significantly more effective than current solutions.   If more information is requested we have publications, marketing hand-outs, and other information available to provide.  If there is interest beyond the published material, we can follow-up by providing confidential disclosure agreements and arranging meetings with the inventors of the technologies.
These meetings have helped catalyze the formation and funding of several early-stage technologies.  Examples include Intellicyt, Lotus Leaf Coatings, and Avisa Pharma.
If you are an entrepreneur or an investor looking to form a start-up around early-stage technology, please contact Cara Hajovsky at chajovsky@stc.unm.edu or 505-272-7297 and we can arrange a technology presentation for you.

Technology Presentations as Fuel for Potential Start-Ups

To highlight some of our latest opportunities available, we often present STC technologies to entrepreneurs and/or investors in an efficient format. We start by inviting in these individuals and finding out what technology areas are of interest to the entrepreneur or investors. We browse our portfolio to find the technologies that we feel will be the best match for that person.

The format is a short one-slide description of each technology usually consisting of a presentation of 10-15 technologies. These are technologies that might be better suited as a start-up company. A compelling elevator pitch is prepared for each technology that describes the problem, UNM’s innovative technology and the advantages and applications that make the technology significantly more effective than current solutions. If more information is requested we have publications, marketing hand-outs, and other information available to provide. If there is interest beyond the published material, we can follow-up by providing confidential disclosure agreements and arranging meetings with the inventors of the technologies.

These meetings have helped catalyze the formation and funding of several early-stage technologies. Examples include Intellicyt, Lotus Leaf Coatings, and Avisa Pharma.

If you are an entrepreneur or an investor looking to form a start-up around early-stage technology, please contact Cara Hajovsky at chajovsky@stc.unm.edu or 505-272-7297 and we can arrange a technology presentation for you.

STC 2012 Faculty Inventor Highlights

Without the talented faculty who lead the invention process at US research universities, technology commercialization activities would not be possible.  STC.UNM recognizes its accomplished inventors in a number of ways, including a calendar which highlights the research and technology commercialization activities of 12 University of New Mexico faculty.  The same inventors will also be in the Spotlight section of the STC website throughout the year.  If you would like a copy of the calendar, please contact STC.UNM at 505-272-7900 or dbissell@stc.unm.edu.  Congratulations to our 12 spotlighted inventors in 2012!

Lisa Kuuttila, President & CEO, STC.UNM