TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner, Nilsa Cruz-Perez, and James Beach that will establish innovation zones around New Jersey’s institutions of higher education and research hospitals to stimulate technology industry clusters cleared the Senate today.
The bill, a Senate Committee Substitute for S-726 and S-1257, 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. Greater Camden is defined as Camden City, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township, Glassboro Borough, Mantua Township, and Stratford Borough. Among the cities and towns in the Greater New Brunswick zone are Trenton, Ewing, Lawrence and West Windsor Townships.
“Strategic partnerships between the academic communities and technology industries will aid in research development and job creation, and ultimately benefit the surrounding community by stimulating the local and state economy,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon, Mercer). “They create opportunities for students, businesses and research scientists to collaborate and innovate in ways that will yield positive results.”
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.
“A collaborative alliance formed between our colleges and universities and research hospitals is a formula destined for success,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden, Gloucester). “More importantly, the success of cluster-based innovation zones will be shared with the surrounding area because they will attract businesses to the community, create jobs, and spark further innovation in science, medicine and technology.”
“If New Jersey is to keep up with the global marketplace, especially in the areas of science and technology, we need to start thinking outside of the box about ways to foster an environment that will promote innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington, Camden). “We have a wealth of great higher education institutions and a history deep in scientific invention. The creation of innovation zones under this bill will allow us to provide the necessary incentives to attract high-tech businesses where we can make the most impact and meet the pressures of the global economy.”
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.
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 Senate with a vote of 34-0. It now heads the Assembly for consideration.