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The University of New Mexico’s economic development objectives are fostering a Rainforest in the Desert. The idea is based on the rainforest model for innovation systems (developed by serial entrepreneurs and investors Victor Hwang and Greg Horowitt), and is a human ecosystem in which human creativity, business acumen, scientific discovery, investment capital, and other elements come together in a special recipe that nurtures budding ideas so they can grow into flourishing and sustainable enterprises. Designing, building, and sustaining a rainforest culture takes a distinct set of social behaviors. STC.UNM is uniquely positioned to facilitate this process because, in the vernacular of the Rainforest, STC.UNM is a keystone species. Keystones create connections among people with ideas, talent, knowledge, and capital by breaking down traditional hierarchies and reaching across social boundaries. The panel will highlight STC’s activities in building an innovation ecosystem and will discuss fostering a culture of entrepreneurship through UNM’s new Innovation Academy program.