The story of American innovation can’t be told without including New Jersey’s myriad contributions. As a matter of fact, the Garden State is the birthplace for nearly every major industry, from apparel to pharmaceuticals. It’s also where many prolific inventors flourished – most famously, Thomas Edison, who acquired over 1,000 patents during his lifetime.
Now, New Jersey is leading the next chapter of cutting-edge thinking and ingenuity. Today’s focus is on growing a range of industries and fostering fresh ideas and new investment.
For example, Gov. Philip D. Murphy has proposed raising $500 million to entice start-ups to make New Jersey home. He also has pledged to build “the nation’s most diverse and inclusive innovation-driven economy.”
Since it was founded in 2014, the New Jersey Innovation Institute also has been helping to grow the state’s role as a hub for innovation. The Newark-based not-for-profit corporation of the New Jersey Institute of Technology helps to facilitate partnerships between big companies, start-ups, investors and universities to transform intellectual capital into commercial success. It is organized around industry verticals: biotech and pharmaceutical production; civil infrastructure; defense and homeland security; financial services; and health care delivery, with other industries added as the market develops.
At a time when U.S. corporations are tightening their R&D budgets, and product innovation cycles are operating at lightning speed, NJII is filling a critical role in the state. NJII helps corporations develop idea-driven supply chains – by connecting talent with resources on a scale that is impossible for any single company to do.
“Our tagline is ‘A new model for business innovation,’” says Donald H. Sebastian, NJII’s president and CEO. “We leverage public funding to create the delivery infrastructure as an economic development priority that serves many. But we facilitate programming that helps individual companies grow their bottom line.”
As a former chief technology officer of the United States and current NJII board member, Aneesh Chopra knows that innovation is crucial for companies to be competitive. Chopra, who is also president of analytics provider CareJourney, says NJII’s model aligns with New Jersey’s larger innovation strategy that emphasizes “an all-hands-on-deck approach to solving big challenges.”
Critical to this approach, NJII brings together individuals from different disciplines who share a common purpose, explains Dean Paranicas, an NJII board member and President and CEO of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey, a trade group for the biopharmaceutical and medical technology industries. “The whole premise of NJII is to find solutions to real-world problems,” he says.
NJII is already seeing results. For example, Hackensack Meridian Health’s $25 million innovation center, in partnership with NJII, has supported several start-ups. One of them makes Pillo, an interactive voice-activated device that acts as a sort of “smart medicine cabinet” that dispenses medicine to patients and communicates with physicians and family members through videoconferencing. The invention could transform health care: Patients who don’t adhere to prescribed doses of medication cause nearly 125,000 deaths a year and can cost the health care system up to $289 billion annually.
NJII has also supported Purple Sun, a light technology platform that disinfects hospital rooms, effectively reducing the risk of patients catching infections. This can have a big impact on health care, as infections are one of the most common complications of hospital care. Indeed, one in 20 hospitalized patients contract a healthcare-associated infection.
NJII also creates regional tech hubs to connect a network of private and public partners around sectors. The connections are valuable on many fronts: Small companies get assistance in organization building and business mentoring from established corporations, as well as accelerated channels to launch their products on the market. Meanwhile, a concentration of small businesses makes it easier for investors to pinpoint investment targets.
Anthony A. Demarco’s has experienced the benefits of NJII firsthand as president of PRICE Systems, a cost-estimating service that helps manufacturers bid more competitively and assists buyers maximize budget, planning and purchasing efficiency. “NJII worked diligently with PRICE ... along with their own market research and expertise, to identify qualified revenue growth opportunities,” he said. “They delivered a list of low-cost or no-cost actions that could be executed in a 12-month timeframe, which were critical in positioning the company to address future market changes and trends.”
Other projects have had broader reach: In a state- and federally-funded project, NJII is piloting a health information network that will electronically exchange patient data statewide. Nearly unprecedented and a challenge to implement because of legal hurdles, the infrastructure will connect 62 hospitals 6,000 physicians, 91 long-term care providers and three qualified health centers. Once in place, with patient data readily available, it will reduce medical errors and unnecessary testing — and more importantly, prevent medical emergencies.
“It’s a major breakthrough, and it’s been given a lot of recognition and visibility by the state as a great example of how NJII is trying to solve industry-wide problems,” says Paranicas, from the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey. “It’s very stimulating because what NJII is doing is contributing to the reinforcement and strength of New Jersey’s ecosystem.”