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Op-Ed: Life Sciences Are Key to Building an ‘Innovation Economy’ in New Jersey

Biopharmaceutical, biotech and medical technology companies comprise one of the state’s strongest sectors. They’re crucial to generating new jobs, products and services

Dean J. Paranicas
Dean J. Paranicas

A core component of Gov. Murphy’s policy agenda is an “innovation economy.” We agree, as other states, countries and regions, looking to redefine their own economies, have become increasingly aggressive in attracting investment from innovator industries. If the bidding for Amazon’s second headquarters is any indication, the competition will only intensify.

The recipe for a successful innovation economy is clear and compelling: Combine great universities, great companies and a great workforce, add strong state support, and produce great ideas that yield great innovations.

An innovation economy is driven by a vibrant innovation ecosystem sustained by a state’s public, private and academic sectors. As we’ve seen elsewhere (California, Massachusetts, North Carolina), public and private research universities — bolstered by their state governments — are the hubs that support the research and development needs of innovator industries, with their companies setting up shop nearby on the spokes.

New Jersey’s challenge is to stimulate these sectors to work together even better to create synergies that support a thriving innovation economy. This will entail capitalizing on our existing strengths — an innovation legacy spanning more than a century in chemicals, the life sciences, telecommunications and food processing — as well as developing new ones, to complement an enhanced academic environment and a skilled workforce.

Growth engines galore

Encouragingly, much progress has already been made. The state’s reorganization of higher education, the Higher Education Bond Act and the opening of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University have collectively strengthened our academic community. Thanks to the support of the Legislature, money was appropriated in the FY 2018 state budget to construct a master database — ResearchwithNJ.com — collecting scholarly output from five of the state’s powerful research universities to facilitate collaborations with innovator industries. And, very recently, the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology was revived to spur innovation initiatives statewide.

New Jersey’s life sciences community can be a prime accelerator. We are blessed with growth engines across its spectrum — ranging from a large and immediately impactful cluster of global biopharmaceutical and medical technology companies, to a growing biotech community with the potential to generate new jobs and exciting new products and services.

The key will be developing a balanced portfolio of policy initiatives that spur continued returns and encourage more investment from the established companies, while concurrently sowing the seeds for growth from the newer entries.

The world’s ‘medicine chest’

This is a strategically sound approach given our imposing life sciences presence that has earned New Jersey the reputation as the “medicine chest of the world.”

  • More than half of the world’s top 20 research-based biopharmaceutical companies and medical technology companies have their global, North American, or U.S. headquarters in New Jersey or maintain a significant presence in our state. This makes New Jersey a “nerve center,” housing executive functions where many strategic decisions are made.

  • $105 billion in total (direct and indirect) economic output was supported by the biopharmaceutical sector in 2015 — second only to California — representing over 18 percent of New Jersey’s gross domestic product.

  • Nearly 13 percent (more than 440,000) of all New Jersey private-sector jobs are estimated to relate, directly or indirectly, to the biopharmaceutical and medical technology sectors.

  • The state has nearly 3,300 life sciences facilities and over 400 biotech companies.

  • Biopharmaceutical companies alone purchase more than $6.1 billion worth of goods and services from thousands of New Jersey vendors.

  • This state’s life sciences industry, more than most other industry sectors, has a profound multiplier effect. According to a recent New Jersey Policy Research Organization (NJPRO) report: “For Life Sciences, two-thirds of the total job impact is outside of the cluster and in other industries.”

  • New Jersey is the number one state for biotech growth potential and the number two state for biotech strength.

  • New Jersey continues to be a strong innovator in the life sciences, as nearly 25 percent of all cardiovascular drugs and 32 percent of all cancer drugs in development nationwide are from New Jersey.

(For more data go to the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey).

The promise of a robust innovation economy can be unlocked by playing to one of our greatest strengths — leveraging the full breadth of New Jersey’s life sciences industry — current and future contributors, small and large.

Dean J. Paranicas is president and chief executive officer of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ).

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