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N.J. Proposal Aims to Jumpstart Emerging Tech Businesses

A New Jersey state lawmaker has proposed the creation of an "innovation partnership" to help fund emerging tech companies within the state. The effort is being pitched as a way to renew the state's innovative roots.

A person about to press a power button next to the word "innovation."
New tech businesses could soon have incentives to make their way to New Jersey as part of a recently proposed bill that looks to provide funding through an innovation partnership initiative.

The initiative would allocate funds to other nonprofit partnerships to promote the growth of emerging tech within the state, according to Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker.

It would also focus on supporting minority- and women-run tech businesses to diversify the state’s current tech environment.

“A few years ago, the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology was reestablished to reinvigorate New Jersey’s innovation economy,” Zwicker said. “Through this commission, we have been able to create an evergreen innovation fund to provide funding for companies and nonprofits that look to create innovation hubs within the state.”

Companies that qualify for funding under the partnership include advanced computing, cybersecurity, financial information technology, biotechnology, carbon footprint reduction technology, electronic device technology, information technology, life sciences, agriculture, aviation, medical device technology, mobile communications technology, renewable energy technology or any field determined by the commission.

Once approved, companies would need to meet the following criteria: provide and serve as a conduit to early-stage and later-stage public and private capital for emerging technology businesses; provide training or technical assistance to help emerging technology businesses apply to federal programs; and establish and administer a research grant fund for the economic impact assessments of technology development projects conducted by private or public institutions of higher education that seek grant funding through the commission.

“When you look at the history of innovation in New Jersey, you first think of Thomas Edison and the lightbulb or Einstein,” Zwicker said. “As time passed, the state’s history of innovation slipped away with the rise of Silicon Valley.”

As this decline occurred, he said, the state relied on private tech companies to drive its innovation economy, leading to little need for public dollars to spur innovation in New Jersey.

Fast forward to now, he said, the biggest challenge is garnering support for this long-term investment from a political perspective.

“Politics deals with very short time frames,” Zwicker said. “So, that’s the challenge in front of us right now, having enough support.”
Katya Maruri is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in global strategic communications from Florida International University, and more than five years of experience in the print and digital news industry.
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