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Senator Turner

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that will establish innovation zones around New Jersey’s institutions of higher education and research hospitals to stimulate technology industry clusters advanced through the Senate Economic Growth Committee today.

The bill, S-1322 would implement Governor McGreevey’s Executive Order No. 128 of 2004 and require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to establish three “innovation zones” in Greater Camden, Greater New Brunswick, and Newark. Among the cities and towns in the Greater New Brunswick zone are Trenton, Ewing, Lawrence and West Windsor Townships.

Under the bill, an innovation zone is defined as a geographic area surrounding a New Jersey research institution that has the potential to attract a collaborative research effort between the academic communities, research hospitals, and New Jersey’s high-technology industry, resulting in business and job growth. The geographic boundaries of the innovation zones and subzones would be recommended by the executive director of the NJEDA and approved by its members.

“Such partnerships encourage innovation, create opportunities for students, businesses, and research scientists alike, and the surrounding communities will ultimately benefit,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon and Mercer). “The intended goal of this legislation is to promote collaborative research between the academic communities and New Jersey’s technology industries so that we can stimulate business, research development, and job growth in our state.”

Under the bill, the NJEDA would be required to modify its existing business assistance programs, with the approval of the State Treasurer, to provide incentives to hi-tech businesses that locate in an innovation zone surrounding a research institution.

The Authority would also be required, in partnership with Secretary of Higher Education, to modify programs to promote and support collaboration between hi-tech businesses and research institutions in the innovation zones, to increase federal funding to research institutions in areas of strategic importance to New Jersey’s hi-tech industry, to promote the transfer of technology and commercialization of new ideas in the zones, and to further develop support for hi-tech companies in the innovation zones including, business incubation and grant writing assistance services.

“Creating these cluster-based economic development strategies anchored by these research institutions will only lead to positive results for the state’s economy,” said Senator Turner. “New Jersey is rich in strong academic institutions and has a historic legacy of innovation and invention; this is a competitive advantage.”

The bill would require NJEDA to work cooperatively with other State departments, agencies, boards, and commissions to explore and implement opportunities to direct resources to those areas within the innovation zones that surround a research institution, and could provide technology, financial, and workforce development opportunities, infrastructure, and housing elsewhere within innovation zones.

The bill would require the NJEDA to also establish an advisory committee for each innovation zone, with a membership consisting of local technology business leaders and representatives from the research community. The advisory committees would meet quarterly to update the NJEDA on the functioning of the innovation zones and the needs of the local technology industry.

The bill cleared the committee with a vote of 5-0. It now heads the full Senate for consideration.