NJPRO and Innovation NJ’s ‘Building Bridges II’ Provides Recommendations for Fostering a New Jersey ‘Innovation Ecosystem’

Contact: Steve Wilson, 609-858-9495

PISCATAWAY, NJ – Academia, industry and government need to take action that will make it easier for New Jersey businesses and institutions of higher education to collaborate to discover and commercialize innovative new products, processes and services, according to a new report by the New Jersey Policy Research Organization (NJPRO) Foundation and Innovation NJ.

At a press conference held today at Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJPRO and Innovation NJ released their latest research publication, Building Bridges II: Breaking Down Barriers – Perspectives from Academia and Industry on Building a New Jersey Innovation Ecosystem. The report is intended to serve as a catalyst to encourage academia, industry and the state to work together to meld their respective research and development (R&D) assets in ways that build out New Jersey’s “Innovation Ecosystem” and affirm the state’s historic role as a global leader in innovation.

The Building Bridges II report was presented to Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, who announced the implementation of one the report’s key recommendations in establishing the New Jersey Council on Innovation that will be chaired by Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks. The Lt. Governor also announced that Secretary Hendricks will be joining the NJ Economic Development Authority, Business Action Center and ChooseNJ as a member of the Partnership for Action.

Elaborating upon a previous Building Bridges report that was published in July 2010 by NJPRO, which is an independent affiliate of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), the new report is based on a series of eight industry-specific focus groups – composed of industry and academic participants – to discuss how to foster an environment for greater collaboration among the state’s institutions of higher education and the private sector.

The focus group discussions identified five overarching challenges that are inhibiting greater industry collaboration with New Jersey academic institutions:

To address these five challenges, the focus groups generated 15 recommendations, which Building Bridges II details.

The Need for a Robust New Jersey Innovation Ecosystem

“Building Bridges II is based on practitioners’ experience and is offered as a guide to how academia, industry and the state can work even more collaboratively and successfully to reassert New Jersey’s position as a global hub for innovation,” said Charlene Brown, former chair of the NJPRO Board of Trustees and co-chair of the Innovation NJ Collaboration Committee.

“New Jersey, historically, has been a national – even a global – leader in innovation,” said Melanie L. Willoughby, Senior Vice President, NJBIA and co-chair of Innovation NJ, a coalition of 85 businesses, industry groups, higher-education institutions and state government agencies dedicated to promoting policies that foster an innovation environment in the state. “New Jersey is the birthplace of the telecommunications, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. This legacy of being the home of R&D and innovation has generated economic benefits that have consistently kept New Jersey in the top tier of states by income, education and quality of life,” Willoughby added.

“Over the decades, New Jersey’s innovator companies had the capital to pursue their R&D agendas on their own, and the state had little competition from other venues that lacked the benefit of an embedded R&D infrastructure. Consequently, there was little need for R&D support from New Jersey’s government or its academic community, and thus a chasm grew between industry and higher education in New Jersey,” said Willoughby .

But times have changed, according to Haskell Berman, Senior Vice President – State Affairs, HealthCare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ) and co-chair of Innovation NJ.

“Despite New Jersey’s innovation dominance in virtually every industrial sector for more than 100 years, our state faces mounting competition from other states for private-sector R&D investment,” Berman said. “Realizing the vast economic benefits generated by R&D, other states – as well as other nations – have aggressively been developing innovation ecosystems that marry the R&D efforts and resources of academia, industry and government around a specific industrial cluster,” Berman said.

“Other venues have learned how to leverage the resources of their higher-education systems – be it world-renowned researchers, facilities, equipment or a steady pipeline of talent – as engines of economic growth,” Berman continued. “In effect, they have created industry-specific, identifiable innovation ecosystems that bring together academia, industry and government in a symbiotic relationship to construct research hubs that, in turn, drive their economy – examples of this include Silicon Valley, North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Boston’s 128 Corridor.”

“New Jersey has the components of a world-class innovation ecosystem,” said Berman. “What the Building Bridges II report is saying is that we need to put the pieces of the puzzle together in a cohesive fashion so that New Jersey continues to be identified as a global research hub.”

Willoughby added, “We find ourselves at an opportune time. The administration and legislature have reorganized higher education in the state, and the public has approved the higher education bond act to construct the facilities needed to attract research talent and investment. We see assembling our innovation ecosystem as the next logical step.”

“We want to thank Governor Christie and Lt. Governor Guadagno for spearheading this effort and look forward to working with the administration and legislature to bring this vision to fruition,” Willoughby said.

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To Access The Report:

Building Bridges II

Building Bridges I (July 2010) – Building Bridges Between Academic Institutions, Business and Government to Bring Innovation to the Marketplace

About NJPRO

The New Jersey Policy Research Organization (NJPRO) Foundation (njprofoundation.org) is an independent affiliate of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) (njbia.org). NJPRO is New Jersey’s leading policy organization conducting innovative, timely and practical research on issues of importance to New Jersey employers. Working with diverse interests, NJPRO sponsors and supports research in New Jersey through both public and private policy research institutes, universities, colleges and individuals.

About Innovation NJ

Innovation NJ (www.InnovationNJ.org) is a diverse coalition established to strengthen and enhance the culture of innovation in New Jersey by promoting public policies that encourage innovation, fostering greater dialogue among members of New Jersey’s innovation community, and increasing collaboration between New Jersey’s business and higher education communities.

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