Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Joseph Egan, Annette Quijano, Shavonda Sumter and Joe Danielsen to establish innovation zones surrounding research institutions in the Camden, New Brunswick and Newark areas gained final legislative approval from the Senate on Thursday.
The bill (S-726/1257/A-1405) requires the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to establish an innovation zone program. The executive director of the authority is to recommend the precise geographic boundaries of the innovation zones and subzones to the members of the authority, who are to give their final approval to the geographic boundaries of the innovation zones.
“Innovation zones are a win-win for universities, businesses, hospitals and the state as a whole,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “These zones will make New Jersey more inviting to businesses planning to move here as well as keeping the state regionally competitive.”
“Taking advantage of the talent and expertise already available in this state to improve our business climate and help our workers is a smart approach,” said Egan (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “This is especially important in tough economic times.”
“By drawing on existing research and academic facilities, we will do a better job of fostering innovation and creating new entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Quijano (D-Union). “New Jersey already boasts one of the most highly educated population centers in the country, and with this we can do more to firmly establish this with new businesses, new opportunities and good jobs.”
“By creating a means for a collaborative support system among universities, hospitals and businesses across the state, New Jersey will continue to lead the way academically, technologically and economically and see business and job growth,” said Sumter (D-Passaic./Bergen). “Innovation zones create a network for businesses in New Jersey and maintain a pipeline of new employees through relationships with our higher education institutions.”
“An innovation has the potential to attract a collaborative research effort between the academic communities, research institutions and New Jersey’s high-technology industry, resulting in business and job growth,” said Danielsen (D-Somerset/Middlesex). “It’s a smart approach for a 21st century economy.”
The bill requires the authority, with the approval of the State Treasurer, to modify its existing business assistance programs where permissible by law, to give bonuses or other enhanced incentives to high-technology businesses that locate in an innovation zone, so long as the business location is within the surroundings of a research institution, as determined by the authority in the designation of the innovation zone.
The bill requires the authority and the Secretary of Higher Education to modify their programs, where permissible by law, to promote and support networks and collaboration between high-technology businesses and research institutions in the innovation zones, to increase federal funding to research institutions in areas of strategic importance to New Jersey’s high-technology industry, to promote the transfer of technology and commercialization of new ideas in the innovation zones, and to further develop support for high-technology companies in the innovation zones including, but not limited to, business incubation and grant writing assistance services.
The bill also requires the authority to work cooperatively with other state departments, agencies, boards, commissions, and authorities to explore and implement opportunities to direct resources to those areas within the innovation zones that surround a research institution, as determined by the authority, and may provide technology, financial, and workforce development opportunities, infrastructure, and housing elsewhere within innovation zones. With the assistance of these state entities, the authority and the secretary may recommend potential future innovation zones and subzones to enhance cluster-based economic development strategies anchored by research institutions.
Further, the bill requires the authority to establish an advisory committee for each innovation zone whose membership is to consist of local high-technology business leaders and representatives from the research community. Each advisory committee is to meet quarterly to advise the authority and the secretary with respect to the functioning of the innovation zones and the needs of the local high-technology industry.
The measure now heads to the governor’s desk.