- Year In Review
Suleiman “Sul” Kassicieh was recently named Distinguished Professor of Management, the first in the history of the Anderson School. He has a local, national and international reputation in technology-based economic development. He is the founder of UNM’s Management of Technology Program and directs the UNM Center for Support of Economic Development (CSED).
Suleiman “Sul” Kassicieh, Anderson School of Management Endowed Chair in Economic Development and Distinguished Professor of Management of Technology, has a local, national and international reputation in technology-based economic development. He is the founder of UNM’s Management of Technology Program and directs the UNM Center for Support of Economic Development.
Kassicieh, originally from Jerusalem, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNM after his uncle, a local physician, recommended he attend UNM. He earned his doctorate in operations research and international business from the University of Iowa. He’s been on the Anderson faculty since 1981. “New Mexico has many scientific research activities in the labs and universities. The path to economic prosperity for the state is commercialized use of that technology,” he said. Kassicieh said that the management of technology program, established in 1994, was created by combining existing courses with new ones.
The business plan competition started as an internal ASM initiative. It became a campus-wide endeavor several years ago when UNM received advice from the Kauffman Foundation. “We saw the benefit in getting the campus energized because of the wealth of ideas that could be developed using New Mexico technologies for business,” Kassicieh said.
The competition continues to thrive because of business support, he said. Michael Gallegos, president and CEO of American Property Management Corp., funds the first place award to the “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” annually. Technology Ventures Corporation sponsors the second place award. The third place award has moved around year to year, he said, noting that $40,000 in prize money is given out each year.
“Venture capital firms have provided seed money for the projects in their areas, too,” Kassicieh said of the more than $100,000 venture capital partners offered as incentive for students looking to form their own high-tech startups in New Mexico.
Through the Center for Support of Economic Development, Kassicieh sees opportunities to help the community create new businesses.
“Major groups already enhance and recruit businesses to Albuquerque and New Mexico. But we focus on creating new businesses based on technology in our quest to create higher paying jobs and wealth in the community,” he said.
Students have both pursued and been pursued by venture capitalists. “It isn’t a short term endeavor. These projects have to build momentum, a market for a product has to be identified, funding must be secured and capacity developed,” he said.
One such product is a diagnostic for tuberculosis. “It required animal testing, then a limited human testing followed by a larger test group,” he said. They are not get-rich-quick schemes.
Another product uses quantum dot technology that blocks out the entire ultra-violet spectrum. “We are talking to spas about doing early market tests.”
It’s a long journey from scientific discovery to market. “The activities are serial. You can’t get everything at once. Early stages burn a lot of cash with nothing to show for it. This high-risk venture isn’t for everyone, but you get to be your own boss,” Kassicieh said.
He notes that poor economic times are a good time for investing in the future. “It’s a hard time for students to find jobs. An alternative is to invest energy in these activities. There are opportunities for young, energetic people to start businesses,” he said.
Kassicieh said that the United States cannot compete with cheap labor sources in other countries. “But what we have is innovation. We can develop high-end products via technology. That’s how our country can compete and be successful.”
Kassicieh and the UNM CSED work with groups all over the state through small business assistance programs at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. One project involves Rancho de Santa Fe, an apple orchard in Velarde, NM
“They supply apples for school districts across the state. The apples must be refrigerated from harvest through June, requiring high electric usage. We looked at ways solar, wind or bio-fuels that could be used to meet their energy needs,” he said.
Kassicieh said they are putting the final touches on their report. “There isn’t enough wind in the area, but solar looks very promising. With Department of Agriculture rebates, prices will come down, making green concepts competitive with traditional energy sources,” he said.
The apple orchard project not only helps that business owner, Kassicieh said. “That research will evolve to help meet alternative energy needs in communities,” he said.
Kassicieh said, “The University of New Mexico receives $300 million in research money. If just five percent of that money was spent to develop meaningful products, that would be good for both the New Mexico and U.S. economy. Where else can UNM get the biggest bang for its buck?”