Valley residents had the opportunity to hear from and network with a roster of experts on how to succeed as technology-based entrepreneurs during a daylong conference held at The University of Texas-Pan American Nov. 22.
The Technology Entrepreneurship Bootcamp was presented by the University in cooperation with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and the North American Advanced Manufacturing Research & Education Initiative (NAAMREI).
"You have an opportunity to make a difference in your region, your town and the world with the work that you are doing," said Cathy Swain, assistant vice chancellor for Commercial Development at The University of Texas System Office of Research and Technology Transfer.
Swain shared information on state funding opportunities for technology start-ups - the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, which has invested $162 million in Texas business, $60 million of this in start-ups and the Texas Ignition Fund (TIF), which makes available $2 million in funds to award through the UT System to support commercialization.
Dr. Cory R.A. Hallam, assistant vice president for Commercialization, Alliances and Innovation and director for the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship (CITE) at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), talked about how universities can play an important role in nurturing and growing technology-based entrepreneurs and described some examples of undergraduate students' technology ideas, including a SIDS detection and intervention system to prevent infant deaths and a solar-powered refrigerator designed initially to store vaccines in remoter, high temperature areas of Africa.
First hand insights from a new start-up entrepreneur as well as a seasoned owner of a technology-based business were also provided during a conference panel session.
"You should be passionate about what you do," said Dr. Karen Lozano, a UTPA professor of mechanical engineering who along with some colleagues and students recently received a $50,000 TIF award to pursue a technology to produce multi-level, superfine fibers for use in multiple nanomanufacturing applications spanning biotechnology, air filtration and advanced textiles.
David Watkins, CEO of MPC Studios, Inc., a Web site design firm, stressed the importance of defining every aspect of a project early on and the need to accept change.
"The only consistency in my 11-year old business is change. It (change) is always painful but embrace it. With change there is opportunity. Also, have fun," Watkins advised attendees.
Collaborative efforts across disciplines as well as among educational institutions, government, economic development corporations and businesses in the South Texas region were discussed as also important to the promotion of regional technology entrepreneurship and sustained economic development . J.D. Salinas, Hidalgo County judge, talked about the recent formation of the Rio South Texas Economic Council, which he chairs and UTPA President Dr. Blandina Cárdenas extolled the formation of the Rapid Response Manufacturing Center at the University to promote speed to market and mass customization of products. She also reaffirmed the University's focus on producing more college graduates prepared to fill 21st century careers.
"The entrepreneurial spirit is in the DNA of the people of the Rio Grande Valley," Cárdenas said. "We are also a bridge to this global economy because of our cultural and our linguistic competencies. That is the competitive edge we can nurture."
A Webcast of the conference and power points presented will be made available through UTPA's Web site soon. For information on accessing that site or plans for future events to promote technology entrepreneurship, contact Jackie Michel, director, UTPA Office of Innovation and Intellectual Property, at 956/292-7415 or via e-mail at email@example.com.