The University of New Mexico and STC.UNM co-hosted Rainforest 2, an economic development summit regarding the community’s progress in building an innovation ecosystem, on Monday in the SUB Ballroom.

The event’s agenda stated that the summit was being held to reflect upon and discuss the progress made since the first Rainforest summit in September 2012.

Panel discussions included the latest updates, goals and missions for the Innovation Academy, UNM Economic Development Start-Up Activities, Innovate ABQ, and the University’s partnerships with national labs.

“Part of the mission,” said Carol Parker, senior vice provost for academic affairs, “is this strategy to embed within UNM’s educational environment opportunities for our faculty and our students to engage in hands-on ways to solve these problems from within our courses and within our degrees.”

Parker is one of several key people involved in the development of Albuquerque and the state of New Mexico’s economy that spoke at the event, filling the morning hours of summit and taking questions or comments from the audience.

Speakers also included John Chavez, president of New Mexico Angels; Tom Stephenson, CEO of Pajarito Powder; and Innovate ABQ board members Jessica Eaves Mathews, Jeff Apodaca and Terry Laudick.

Along with them was Joseph Cecchi, dean of the School of Engineering; Peter Atherton, senior manager of industry partnerships at Sandia National Laboratories; David Pesiri, director of the Feynman Center for Innovation; and Robert Peterkin, chief scientist at Air Force Research Laboratory.

Innovation Academy Executive Director Rob DelCampo was conferenced in over the loud speaker to give insight on the importance of UNM's role in it all.

The Innovation Academy was launched this year at the start of the fall 2015 semester and has produced many important pieces to the puzzle with regard to the community’s economic development, as DelCampo displayed in his presentation showing the current situation and upcoming growth of the program.

“We are really excited about where the Innovation Academy is headed,” DelCampo said. “But what is incredibly exciting is how the students have responded on a one-on-one basis. The students just have wonderful ideas from all over the place.”

UNM has remained productive in terms of the number of startup companies being assembled each year. About 63 percent of the 94 companies that emerged from UNM are in business and active, said Lisa Kuuttila, CEO of STC.UNM, during her presentation at the summit.

Although most who attended the summit were businessmen and women, UNM faculty and some of the city’s most renowned entrepreneurs, many undergraduate and graduate students sat among the crowd as well.

Nicole Capehart, who is in her final year at the Anderson School of Management in pursuit of her master’s in Business and Administration, runs the social media accounts for the Innovation Academy and spent the day Tweeting out important highlights.

“I think UNM’s involvement in all of this is really raising awareness, especially among students,” Capehart said. “If they want to make Albuquerque amazing as they go on with their own careers, this is where it starts: with creativity, collaboration and communication.”

The summit concluded in the late afternoon with breakout sessions that were themed around the question, “how are we doing building a rainforest in the desert?” Individuals and groups used a ‘score card’ as a tool for dialogue and rapid-fire discussions on the innovation conditions discussed throughout the day.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed researches from UNM, New Mexico investors and New Mexico entrepreneurs can change the world,” Chavez said.

Kayla Root is a staff reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @DailyLobo.