Udall and Frank
U.S. Senator Tom Udall and UNM President Robert G. Frank discuss plans for the New Mexico Collaborative Research and Development Council. Photo credit: John Arnold

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich joined leaders from the state’s research universities, national laboratories and military installations on Friday to help kick off an effort aimed at fostering scientific innovation and boosting economic opportunity in New Mexico.

The New Mexico Collaborative Research and Development Council – whose members include some of the nation’s finest scientific minds – gathered for its inaugural meeting at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. The council aims to facilitate collaborations and strategic partnerships that will allow scientific research and technology development to thrive in New Mexico amid times of fiscal uncertainty.

“I see tremendous potential for groundbreaking work within this group,” UNM President Robert G. Frank said. “I am extremely grateful that our partners are willing to share their expertise by taking on our students as interns and generously supporting our shared faculty researchers.”

Members of New Mexico Research Universities, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, White Sands Missile Range, Kirtland AF Base and Holloman AF Base.

Institutions across the state have long partnered on research efforts. But as researchers face increasingly constrained budgets and a competitive funding environment that prioritizes interdisciplinary collaboration, such partnerships have become even more important. The council plans to meet quarterly at different locations across the state, providing a forum in which members can leverage resources and expertise and can improve understanding of current research and development activities.

"The sequester cuts have taken a toll on New Mexico’s universities, labs and bases.  As these institutions take a hit in funding to support innovation and research, we must coordinate our limited resources to best leverage our skills and capabilities,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said. "When New Mexico’s workforce at our national labs, research universities and military bases work together on innovation, including tech transfers and potential commercial applications, we can strengthen funding prospects and maintain New Mexico’s role as a leader in science and technology."

At Friday’s meeting, members discussed areas of research on which their respective institutions were focused and what they hoped to gain from collaborations with partner institutions. Council members say this enhanced communication will help expand research boundaries and increase economic development opportunities. For example, academic institutions could tailor workforce development programs to address the employment needs of national laboratory and military partners.

“NMSU is proud to partner with our fellow research institutions around the state,” said NMSU President Garrey Carruthers. “Through this kind of collaboration, we are able to harness our full potential to make research discoveries that will economically benefit everyone in New Mexico.”

U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich and Col. David Goldstein, U.S. Air For Research Laboratory.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., added that the “tremendous research strengths at our universities, national labs and bases translate into increased competitiveness in innovation and economic development.” The research council’s member institutions include the Air Force Research Laboratory, Holloman Air Force Base and the 96th Test Group, Kirtland Air Force Base, Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, New Mexico State University, Sandia National Laboratories, University of New Mexico and White Sands Missile Range. 

“The work we do together through this council will not only benefit our state but will also help each partner better tackle some of our nation's greatest challenges,” said Heinrich. “From individual researchers to the institutions themselves, many of the most significant outcomes are made possible through collaboration. We need that in New Mexico now more than ever."

The council will form three working groups.  One group will determine a strategic thrust for initial activities of the council.  The second group will catalog ongoing research at all participating institutions, and look at areas of intersection and the third group will address the specific contractual complexities that prevent or hinder collaboration among higher education institutions, national laboratories and Department of Defense installations.