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Monday, December 22, 2014

Innovate ABQ will benefit university, city

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@sandovalmanny

Innovate ABQ is taking another step toward readiness, this time with regard to how students and non-students alike can get directly involved in entrepreneurship.

As part of the larger technology incubator, the newly conceived Innovation Academy, which is undergoing planning at the moment, is a way for UNM students to use their skills to advance the New Mexico economy. The academy is set to be located in the downtown part of the planned Innovate ABQ.

Lisa Kuuttila, CEO of STC.UNM, has played a leading role in the development of Innovate ABQ and said that UNM has a big role to play in Innovate ABQ as a whole.

“We anticipate there to eventually be an incubator and entrepreneurial dorm where students who are part of the Innovation Academy will reside. There will be an apartment building, an office building and maybe one additional building,” Kuuttila said.

“So it’s hard for me to quantify exactly what percentage (will be directed towards the Innovation Academy) but you can tell that students play a very important role in the whole project.”

Senior Interim Vice Provost Carol Parker is part of the committee for the Innovation Academy.

“The committee is working on determining a framework by which UNM faculty will participate in determining what academic courses and programs are offered there,” Parker said. “We have not yet made a final determination. It could be as small as innovative courses being piloted there (UNM) to perhaps certificates, perhaps minors in entrepreneurship or innovation, or perhaps an actual degree program. All of those things are being discussed.”

The upfront cost of a program like this could be tremendous, but it will cost the state little to nothing, Parker said.

“At this point the Innovate ABQ project, as a whole, is based predominately on private funding,” Parker said. “We anticipate that entrepreneurs and investors will want to become involved in the project, and, in fact, there is already a lot of interest in the project.”

Kuuttila said the claim that no state money is being used is true, with private donations encompassing the whole of the required money.

“The funds that have been approved are $7.3 million,” Kuuttila said. “This includes a gift of $3 million which is coming from New Mexico Educators Federal Credit Union. The city of Albuquerque is putting in $2 million, and we have secured a grant from the Department of Commerce, what is called the Economic Development Administration, for $1.5 million. So that’s $6.5 million. The remaining $800,000 is from the UNM Foundation. So there’s no state money that’s going into this project.”

For Albuquerque residents who don’t attend UNM, there are still ways to work with Innovate ABQ, Kuuttila said.

“The other aspects (of Innovate ABQ) are entrepreneurial training for people in the community who have an interest in starting a business, so this could really be anybody,” Kuuttila said. “This is a partnership between the city, the county, the university and others in the community who want to provide training. So people will have an opportunity to go to workshops and seminars as well.”