The Innovative State

With a rich history of innovation, NJ is well-positioned to face COVID-19 challenges.

Innovation is all about the execution and implementation of an idea. It is the process that brings a spark of creativity or invention to life to address real individual or societal needs. As the Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology, I am continually inspired by the advances taking place throughout the state, and the people and businesses that make up our robust innovation ecosystem. 

New Jersey has a rich history of innovation, more scientists and engineers per square mile than anywhere in world, and numerous globally-recognized universities and medical centers. Combined with the state’s large corporate research centers in various industry sectors such as pharmaceuticals/life sciences, telecommunications and energy, New Jersey is well-positioned to face COVID-19-related health and economic challenges. 

Critical healthcare innovations are the immediate priority – from personal protective equipment and ventilators to medicines and new technology for the delivery of care. Innovations in processes, advanced manufacturing, supply chain, and logistics are needed to keep businesses and manufacturers operating. And we need individual and community innovations in daily living, including exercise at home and stress management techniques, worship services, community meetings, remote education, entertainment and government. 

Once the economy reopens and businesses restart, life will not be the same, and additional innovations will be needed to address the massive economic challenges. Companies of all sizes, from large corporations to emerging startups, state and local governmental entities, and academic institutions, will need to rethink how they approach innovation. 

The post-COVID-19 landscape must reflect Gov. Phil Murphy’s vision of creating the most diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem in the nation. In order to bring the new ideas and innovations to the market, everyone needs to be able to contribute. No individual sector or group can go it alone. As studies have shown, the more diverse the team, the better the economic outcome. 

Innovation will need to happen faster, with companies experimenting quicker to see what works and what does not, using lessons from the lean-startup methodology with its minimum viable product approach to customer and market discovery. 

Another key factor is collaboration among entities across different disciplines. Big technology corporations already have come together to work on track-and-trace technology, using mobile phones to help curb the spread of highly communicable diseases. Massive amounts of data are being shared between academic, medical, government institutions, and corporations to monitor, learn about, and manage the disease. This will lead to new data-sharing infrastructures and governance models. 

Large corporations will be called upon to more fully engage with other players in the overall innovation ecosystem, especially smaller innovators and entrepreneurs, and to establish relationships where they can offer to beta test or pilot new ideas, and their expertise in commercialization and scale-up will be valuable to bringing new innovations to fruition. 

In the coming months, we will re-emerge into an altered world. Yet, I have no doubt that New Jersey’s citizens, companies, universities and government will continue stepping forward to work together to address the statewide COVID-19-related challenges.

To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.

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