EPIC Prize Arrowhead Center

A conversation with EPIC prize winner Arrowhead Center:

OTT: Congratulations on receiving $50,000 as part of OTT’s EPIC prize! First, please tell us a little more about your company/who you are.

Arrowhead Center: Arrowhead Center (Arrowhead) at New Mexico State University (NMSU) plays a vital role supporting the state’s entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem, creating economic opportunity in New Mexico. Arrowhead builds capacity statewide by making available to individuals and firms the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to be successful in business creation and growth, as well as technology commercialization. This results in favorable outcomes benefiting the state: new businesses and jobs, new products, increased investment, increased entrepreneurial skills (enhancing employability), and strategic public-private partnerships. 

OTT: Will you give us a brief description of your winning program plan?

Arrowhead: Under EPIC funding, Arrowhead will create the foundation for a clean-energy cluster –New Mexico Clean Energy Resilience and Growth (NM CERG)– that will address the needs of the region, help startups develop their clean energy technologies, make available training and funding opportunities, and provide access to the tools startups need to move towards commercial success. Arrowhead has started cluster development with input from regional stakeholders in the innovation ecosystem (including federal labs, universities, constituent energy businesses, and economic development organizations), is currently mapping our region’s most prevalent needs, and is creating an action plan to bridge gaps. We will be launching our key program under this award on May 28th – EnergySprint + SBIR – an eight-week accelerator that will help startups validate their business model and market and introduce them to non-dilutive funding for technology development through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Arrowhead will run two cohorts over two years (one in 2021 and one in 2022) to provide the most impact and contribute to NM CERG. 

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EPIC Prize Winner - Arrowhead Center
Arrowhead Center

OTT: How has this program impacted your region/local community?

Arrowhead: Through NM CERG, Arrowhead will provide a centralized location and springboard for startups seeking to commercialize clean energy technologies. New Mexico has a wealth of organizations and programs dedicated to providing support via accelerators, resources, mentors, funding, etc., but many of these are siloed and hard to navigate. NM CERG will bring these organizations and resources together to provide an easy access point for startups, regardless of their stage of technology development. Areas for development and growth have been identified, including collation of resources, a Steering Committee engaging with industry leaders on behalf of NM CERG clients, and the need to provide adaptable models for continued regional success.

Work through Arrowhead’s proposed EnergySprint + SBIR accelerators is forthcoming; our first cohort will kick off on May 28th, and we anticipate broad impacts for the participating startups through access to expertise, guided curriculum, access to funding, etc.

OTT: When it comes to lessons learned with building out your regional innovation ecosystem, what is one thing that has worked and one thing that has not?

Arrowhead: Arrowhead is still in the beginning stages of building out NM CERG, but has participated in and contributed to New Mexico’s broader innovation ecosystem for years. One area Arrowhead and similar organizations throughout the state excel in is working with early stage startups and helping them grow through targeted programming and support. However, a gap that NM struggles with is scaling those startups – attracting outside capital, providing targeted workforce development, and facilitating access to local manufacturing. To retain startups and technologies developed in the state, more focus must be placed on supporting technology development through commercialization and scaling. NM CERG is positioned to provide this support through our broad Steering Committee network for startups in the clean energy space.

OTT: What does it mean to be an accelerator/incubator during the coronavirus pandemic? What is one lesson learned from this virtual experience?

Arrowhead: Since NMSU is the land grant institution for New Mexico, Arrowhead is able to provide services to the entire state. Because of this, we had developed hybrid and virtual programming well before the pandemic hit as a mechanism to reach New Mexico’s rural communities. An opportunity (or lesson learned) that came out of facilitating virtual accelerators was the ability to increase impact by inviting speakers and partners from across the nation. With travel no longer an issue, we have been able to secure speakers who normally would not be able to participate in our programming. Engaging our participants with this broader pool of speakers (e.g. SBIR agency program managers) allows for more targeted assistance and support, leading to increased impacts (e.g. SBIR awards).

OTT: How can we stay up to date on the latest news or events with your company?

Arrowhead: You can stay  up-to-date on Arrowhead news and events through our website and can find specific updates on our work through EPIC funding here.

Thank you Arrowhead Center! Congratulations again on being an EPIC prize winner!

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