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NMSU conference connects technology entrepreneurs and researchers to potential clients

The business of ensuring the nation's security has evolved into a vast and intimidating industry, but that doesn't mean entrepreneurs and innovative researchers are shut out of the field.

Representatives of Satwest, an aerospace and consulting firm based in Albuquerque, man a booth at the National Security Technology Conference & Expo in 2009. This year's conference and expo takes place on Sept. 12 at the Las Cruces Convention Center. (NMSU photo)

The 2011 National Security Technology Conference & Expo, hosted by New Mexico State University's Arrowhead Center, is committed to helping entrepreneurs and researchers create networks, get valuable advice about venture capital and log face time with representatives from some of the biggest names in national security.

"This conference and expo will provide a venue for technology entrepreneurs and researchers to network with and learn from federal agencies, contractors and venture capitalists," said Garrey Carruthers, dean of the NMSU College of Business and vice president for economic development.

The conference, sponsored by the Arrowhead Technology Incubator in support of a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration, takes place Sept. 12 at the Las Cruces Convention Center, 680 E. University Ave.

Kathy Hansen, chief operating officer of the Arrowhead Center, said the conference aims to bring technologies that are being developed in labs to the attention of commercial ventures, as well as take technologies being developed by small businesses and expose them to potential customers.

One small business that is ready to make its National Security Technology Conference & Expo debut is the Navitus Group, a current client of the Arrowhead Technology Incubator. Josh Kauffman, the CEO and chief technology officer of Navitus, has developed a battery management system that is capable of handling high-current loads. The system also is constantly monitoring and maintaining the battery, which can make it stronger and increase performance.

With a booth at the expo, this is the first time Kauffman and Navitus are taking on the role of vendors.

"I'm usually on the other side ? the guy walking around looking at other companies and their technologies," he said. "The exposure and the clientele that are going to be walking through this conference are just too much not to be there."

Small businesses such as Navitus will have booths at the expo alongside major entities such as Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory. Hansen hopes small businesses and researchers in the region will take advantage of the exposure the expo offers as a way of bringing attention to their products.

"Many times, smaller businesses have a hard time knocking on the door and getting into DOD (Department of Defense) or DOE," she said. "One speaker will talk about how DOD and DOE need to go to technology incubators such as Arrowhead in order to get access to those technologies being developed by small businesses."

This year, the organizers of the National Security Technology Conference & Expo have opted to focus the event on the fields of cyber security, energy and aerospace.

"We tried to pick the areas that were the hottest topics, and energy is hot and certainly we have local businesses and researchers at NMSU involved in that," Hansen said.

Also this year, a group of private investors and venture capitalists will be on hand to discuss what business sectors and technologies they are interested in funding.

"That's very important, because a lot of ideas and technologies die for lack of that funding." Hansen said. "Of course, the venture capitalists are usually later-stage funding. They are going to be funding technologies that look like they have near-term commercial potential."

Kauffman of Navitus understands all too well the importance of venture capital funding. His company already has received an initial investment of $200,000 and he credits the incubator at Arrowhead, particularly Chris Penner, director of business incubation, for helping him reach that milestone.

"I don't have any doubt that the incubator has helped tremendously," Kauffman said, "I think we would have gotten there eventually, but I think the incubator has accelerated that ? and I'm talking accelerated by years."

That statement underlines Hansen's assertion that business incubators are a vital part of the economy.

"There is a much higher success rate for businesses that have been incubated than those that have not," Hansen said. "Of course, our end goal is to grow the region, do economic development here and try to grow the number of jobs."

For more information on attending or purchasing a booth at the 2011 National Security Technology Conference & Expo, visit arrowheadcenter.org.