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New Jersey’s Living Legacy of Innovation

Dr. Troy C. Sarich serves as Chairman of the Research & Development Council of New Jersey.  He is also Vice-President of Real World Evidence at Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC a Johnson & Johnson company.

Fostering innovation in New Jersey has been one of the Research & Development Council of New Jersey’s primary objectives since its inception. Founded in 1962, the council serves as a forum, facilitator and promoter for New Jersey’s STEM economy and its leaders.  The council’s main objectives include advocating for a prosperous research & development environment in the state, promoting innovation within the private and public sectors, and encouraging excellence in STEM education through scholarships, standards reform, and student initiatives. The council also discusses the broader issues affecting New Jersey’s STEM pipeline. Over the past year, we have taken up immigration and attracting top talent, cybersecurity and cybercrime, and ensuring proper incentives for innovation through patent reform.

From these discussions, I am pleased to report that New Jersey has much to celebrate. Among our members, there is overwhelming agreement that New Jersey is an exceptional state for STEM careers because it boasts one of the most educated workforces in the country, numerous world-class companies that invest in R&D, and an unmatched education system whether a student is a preschooler or Ph.D. candidate. Our state leads the world in intellectual talent density with over 225,000 scientists and engineers, by far the largest concentration anywhere on the planet. Earlier this year, Bloomberg Business ranked New Jersey the fourth most innovative state in the country. And over the coming decade, New Jersey is projected to have an eleven percent increase in the number of STEM jobs (by comparison, all other jobs are at seven percent).

At the Council, we continue the work befitting the state’s oldest STEM-focused organization. Each year, we honor our state’s inventors at the Edison Patent Awards where our top minds celebrate New Jersey’s top STEM achievements and innovators. With the Governor’s STEM Scholars, we give our state’s best and brightest high school and college students a comprehensive introduction to the state’s STEM economy through a series of conferences, field trips, and internship opportunities. And finally, with the Merit Scholars program we award promising community college students scholarships and introduce them to STEM careers and professionals.

Still, there is always room for improvement, particularly in the STEM talent pipeline. Each year, the state loses young people at critical junctures in the education system. While we have greater levels of high school students who graduate than the average state, we also have lower rates of students who graduate from two-year associate’s degrees program and who pursue STEM careers. And for those students who do graduate, many are not staying in the Garden State: New Jersey exports nearly 30,000 high school graduates each year, by far the largest number in the nation.

To address these challenges, we are working to ensure we retain and attract top STEM talent to help with the discovery of new innovations that improve our health, our economy, and our way of life.

We believe that to maintain our status as a STEM leader, our state must aggressively push to be even better. One recent promising step was adopting the Next Generation Science Standards, which ensures our students will enter classrooms where they will receive an internationally-benchmarked science education. Another is the innovative Governor’s STEM Scholars, a program funded by New Jersey companies and foundations, strongly supported by the state government, and available to New Jersey high school and college students who are passionate about STEM.

When I look at all that New Jersey has created since the time of Thomas Edison, I am amazed by how much our state has accomplished, but I know there is so much more to come. Whether you are the parent of a student interested in STEM or the CEO of one of our STEM companies, I encourage all New Jerseyans to celebrate our STEM achievements while also inspiring today’s students to consider their place in New Jersey’s living legacy of innovation.

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