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New Mexico State University

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NMSU recognized for boosting economic development

New Mexico State University has received a national award for its work helping small businesses solve technical challenges.


rd was given by the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP), a program sponsored by NASA that encourages its contractors to make their research expertise, facilities and other resources available to small businesses in need of technical assistance in areas such as manufacturing and communications.

NMSU received SATOP's award for the Best Performing Silver Alliance Partner in 2003-2004. The program recognizes participants based on the number of projects they assist small businesses with.

"NMSU has been an excellent partner and has brought a variety of expertise to the SATOP program," said Hugo Hinojosa, director of the SATOP program in New Mexico.

During the past two years, NMSU faculty members have assisted small businesses with 47 projects, including 32 in New Mexico and six in Texas. Faculty members receive a small stipend from NASA to cover expenses incurred during a project.

Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM), who serves on the House Small Business Committee, presented NMSU with its award at an event in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

"Maureen Camunez and Rich Hills deserve a lot of credit for being the champions for this program within NMSU and we were pleased to give them this award for their efforts," Hinojosa said. Hills is interim vice provost for research at NMSU and Camunez is director of intellectual property and technology transfer as well as coordinator of the SATOP program.

"Part of our mission as a land grant university is to be an economic engine for the state," Hills said. "This program provides a unique opportunity for our faculty to work with small businesses. This not only benefits small businesses, but helps our faculty learn what problems are relevant to the needs of business."

Vincent Choo, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at NMSU, has been among the faculty members most involved with the SATOP program. Choo, an expert in polymers and composite materials, has worked with 13 companies in the past two years.

The SATOP program was started in 2001 to help create a return on the investment that has been made in the U.S. space program. The program currently operates in four states: New Mexico, New York, Florida and Texas. To date, the program has helped solve more than 550 technical challenges for small businesses.

Last year, NMSU won an award from SATOP for Best Success Story Benefiting Homeland Security. That award was given for the university's work with LaSys, a Las Cruces company that is developing a hand-held pathogen detector.

Because of the large number of hours it has worked with companies in the past year, NMSU has now moved up to SATOP's platinum, or highest level. Only five SATOP alliance partners have reached this level, and NMSU is the only university to do so.