New Jersey boasts the highest concentration of scientists and engineers per square mile in the United States – tied with Massachusetts. Add numerous technology partnerships with top universities and a growing number of community college and high school, vocational tech, and advanced technology programs – and mix in access to venture capital and one of the best fiber optic networks in the country – and it’s no surprise tech companies want to be in New Jersey.
“New Jersey’s assets outweigh the challenges, but our assets need to be promoted and become part of a statewide narrative as to why New Jersey is the place to innovate,” says Anthony Cicatiello, president of the Research & Development Council of NJ (RDCNJ). “New Jersey has everything a company could want in the tech space and in connectivity matters. We’re the No. 1 state for broadband connectivity and No. 2 for fastest download speeds.”
With 40% of the workforce holding a bachelor’s degree or higher, the state is 8% above the national average. The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development predicts STEM occupations will grow by 9.8% through 2026 in New Jersey, driven by growth in the healthcare, telecom and artificial intelligence areas, Cicatiello notes, as the state continues attracting entrepreneurs who want to be near the leaders in areas such as artificial intelligence and robotics.
“Our member companies such as Nokia Bell Labs, Siemens and Stryker are located here, and they will forge the future in 5G technology and artificial intelligence and robotics, particularly within the healthcare sector. These sectors are also providing the high-paying jobs of the future,” he says. “New Jersey will continue to be a hub of the most talented STEM professionals in the world and maintain its ranking as a worldwide innovation leader.”
Kathleen Coviello, vice president of Technology & Life Science Investments at the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), says the state is drawing cutting-edge tech companies like Cellularity, OncoSec and Mobility Capital Finance.
OncoSec Medical Inc. relocated here from the West Coast to tap New Jersey’s life sciences talent pool, Coviello says. The company is partnering with Oregon-based Providence Cancer Institute to conduct the first in-human Phase 1 clinical trials for a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Mobility Capital Finance, Inc. (MoCaFi) is another example of the kind of technology companies emerging here. The Newark-based fintech company is using a $250,000 convertible note from the NJ CoVest Fund to build its mobile community bank business in financially underserved areas by offering low-cost access to capital and banking services.
Cellularity was drawn to New Jersey’s life science talent and the available investment capital it needed to conduct FDA-approved early trials of its new COVID-19 cell therapy manufactured from placental tissue.
“Cellularity has raised significant investment dollars and is relocating its headquarters to Flemington. It could be the poster child for what we’re seeing; the spawning of the life science talent in the state,” Coviello says. “There is a plethora of life science companies interested in New Jersey because of [its] highest concentration of scientists anywhere in the country.
“We are meeting with venture fund managers to develop strategies of how to keep our companies alive,” she says.
The NJEDA is helping to fund innovation with its recently launched Entrepreneur Loan Guarantee Program, which will guarantee up to 80% of loans up to $200,000 to New Jersey-based tech companies, enabling companies to grow without having to sell off parts of their companies for capital.
Other initiatives such as the New Jersey Tech Council’s (NJTC’s) recently launched Clean Energy Impact Challenge, in partnership with PSE&G, also focus on linking innovators with investors. The council plans to fast-track the winning company’s solution to the challenge of promoting and creating energy efficiency and energy equity into a pilot program that other companies can use as a model.
“Clean tech is an area of opportunity where we as a state can have an advantage. It’s on the governor’s agenda and that gives us a lot of momentum,” says NJTC CEO Aaron Price. “We don’t have as robust an investment community as other states, certainly not as robust as New York. I think the NJ Innovation Evergreen Fund from the governor and the NJEDA is a great step in attracting capital.” The state plans to finance the Innovation Evergreen Fund by auctioning tax credits to New Jersey corporations for up to five years to raise $250 million that it hopes venture capitalists will match to create a $500 million fund.
The NJTC is also focusing on smart cities and fintech.
“We’re working with AT&T to inspire cities to be early adopters of 5G technology. We have some startups that would need to be near that kind of infrastructure,” Price says. “The more we can attract the kind of companies that rise to that challenge, the more we can attract companies that are inventing the future.”
Choose New Jersey President Jose Lozano says the state’s talent pool, proximity to New York City and Philadelphia, university partnerships, access to venture capital and fiber optic networks are driving the growth of internet and telecommunications technology companies here.
“Cybersecurity is also an emerging tech industry. As the worldwide threat of cyberattacks, data breaches and phishing malware looms, New Jersey’s dynamic cybersecurity landscape – home to 33 percent of the “Global Cybersecurity 100” companies – is rising to meet the challenge,” Lozano says. He notes that New Jersey was the first state to establish an information sharing and analysis organization on cybersecurity, the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell.
Lozano says Choose New Jersey, a nonprofit that assists and promotes companies that locate here, will play an important role in helping restart and stimulate the state economy by connecting companies with resources. Additionally, Lozano was recently named by Gov. Murphy to co-chair the Restart and Recovery Advisory Council, which brings together leaders from various industries and communities across New Jersey to aid in the reopening of the economy.
“We are in constant communication with our members and will continue to work with the governor’s office and administration to help businesses secure the resources they need to rebuild in the weeks and months ahead,” he says.
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