Refreshed from yesterday’s tour of Sandia National Labs, the Science, Technology and Telecommunications interim legislative committee was back at work this morning in the Rotunda of the UNM Science and Tech Park.
UNM Associate Vice President for Research Administration Carlos Romero walked the committee along the CORE roadmap – Centers for Research Excellence. The goal is to focus NM’s unique strengths on grand challenges that impact the state so that NM “will re-emerge as a preeminent technological research community recognized around the globe for its innovative education and research.”
NM’s strengths are grounded in its three nationally recognized research universities and four federal research laboratories. These are complemented by geographic location, a history of strong state support for higher education and diversity of population, climate, and thinking.
The grand challenges identified have both state and national import: water, energy, healthcare, securing the cyberspace and insuring American competitiveness in the STEM fields. Simply put, the process would aim the strengths at the challenges with the help of federal and state funding in order to create collaborations that lead to education and economic opportunities for NM. The message to lawmakers is that the state only needs to fund a portion that can be matched and leveraged from public and private sources.
Underscoring and broadening the message about strengthening the educational pipeline, the committee heard about UNM’s Venture Space program and STEM education initiatives. Committee members had a number of pointed questions about the latter, including how educators interface with HED and PED. The meeting at UNM was capped with a tour of the renowned Center for High Technology Materials.
Next month and beyond, the committee will be talking about endorsing specific legislation to fund initiatives like research collaboratives and endowed chairs. As Rep. Lucky Varela (D-Santa Fe) is fond of saying: great ideas go nowhere without money.