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.”
(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.