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Lobo Rainforest looks to provide ecosystem of innovation

Joy Wang
August 25, 2017 06:29 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- A new building is up and running in downtown Albuquerque, and people who work at the University of New Mexico say there's nothing like it.

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Lobo Rainforest is a place where students can collaborate with businesses and make their creative designs a reality. It's called an ecosystem for a reason.

Think of it this way: in a rainforest, there are many species and much growth. That's what UNM hopes will happen at Lobo Rainforest --when different groups come together and collaborate.

"The ideal kind of story is student comes to UNM, lives upstairs here, uses the Innovation Academy resources to build their concept, their business, go over to STC or maybe our other partners, can build their company here," said Rob DelCampo, UNM's Innovation Academy executive director.

The brand new building looks nothing like a rainforest, but it's inspired by that idea.

"An ecosystem is really a rich environment," said Elizabeth J. Kuuttila with the Science and Technology Transfer Corporation. "We also call it a rainforest so that a rainforest needs a lot of species, so we are all different species -- the laboratories, the university, the research, the students, the educational component, entrepreneurs, investors, all co-located spur new innovation."

Upstairs, there are five floors or dorm rooms with a personal bathroom and a kitchen. The downstairs has already been 100 percent leased out, including by companies such as Sandia National Lab and UNM's Innovation Academy.

"You want to start a business? We can do that," DelCampo said. "You want to start a creative enterprise and learn how to monetize it? We can do that. You want to take technology and take it to market? We can hook you up with Sandia, AFRl, STC, and do that."

The building is on Broadway in downtown Albuquerque. Two security guards are on staff 24/7 to patrol. An extra guard works overnight.

"We're working through some access controls on some of the doors. That's why there's such a large security presence," said Thomas M. Neale, director of real estate. "Every exterior door will have access to control. The students will have a key fob that'll allow them ingress and egress the building. If a building's left open, it'll emit an alarm so that we know that there's a potential with a safety issue to an open door."

UNM officials say over the weekend, a fire alarm was set off by a vape pen, which led to an Albuquerque Fire Department response. The university says the fire department didn't have keys to get in the building and had to break in, but the problem has been fixed and they're doubling their efforts to ban smoking in the building.

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Joy Wang

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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