(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Vince Mazzeo and Shavonda Sumter to establish innovation zones surrounding research institutions in the Camden, New Brunswick and Newark areas was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
An innovation zone is a geographic area in New Jersey that surrounds a research institution, which 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.
“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 workers in Atlantic County is a smart approach,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We should be facilitating this type of collaboration which can give us an edge over the competition.”
“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).
The bill (A-3747) would require the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to establish an “innovation zone” program within the authority to consist of three innovation zones, with each zone surrounding a research university or college or research hospital, or any combination thereof, and located in Greater Camden, Greater New Brunswick, and Greater Newark.
The bill would require the authority, with the approval of the State Treasurer, to modify its existing business assistance programs, if permissible by law, to give bonuses or other enhanced incentives to high-technology businesses that are located in an innovation zone.
Under the bill, the authority and the Secretary of Higher Education must modify their programs, if 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 requires the authority to work with other state departments, agencies, boards, commissions, and authorities to explore and implement opportunities to direct resources to those areas within the innovation zones, and may provide technology, financial, and workforce development opportunities, infrastructure, and housing elsewhere within innovation zones. With the help of these entities, the executive director of the authority and the secretary may recommend potential future innovation zones and subzones surrounding other research institutions to the authority’s board members to enhance cluster-based economic development strategies anchored by research institutions.
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 must 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.
Lastly, the bill would allow high-technology businesses located in the innovation zone within Greater Camden that qualify for the innovation zone program and the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program to receive certain minimum tax credits for job creation and retention activity, subject to limitations under the Grow New Jersey Assistance Program.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.