New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Wednesday, July 25, two initiatives to jump-start the state’s innovation ecosystem. He addressed officials and guests at Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs in Plainsboro, which formally opened in May.
“We’re all here today for a good reason,” Murphy said. “It’s right here in places like this across our state where the innovation economy will be reborn and once again dominate in New Jersey. These are the spaces where the next great leaps in technology and the life sciences will be made by new companies doing leading-edge research and development.”
The new initiatives are designed to attract and support entrepreneurial startups, as well as established companies developing technological and medical innovations.
Murphy opened his remarks with mention of his visits to Princeton University and his discussions with Princeton officials and students in his capacity as an ex officio member of the Board of Trustees, which he called “one of the singular honors” of his position as governor.
“Princeton is one of the great gems of this state, of this country, of the university ecosystem in the world, not just in what it’s doing but given all that it’s doing, the fact that there’s even more potential — in particular, we’ve bonded in the innovation space — is really breathtaking,” he said.
Murphy announced the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Incubator and Collaborative Workspace Rent Initiative (ICWRI), which will assist new startups with leases so they can enjoy the benefits of collaborative workspaces while freeing capital to invest in their workforce and products.
He also introduced the research and development tax credit contained in the state’s recently passed budget. The budget brings New Jersey’s research and development tax laws, which were written in 1992, into alignment with the federal tax code. The rewritten law will include more eligible research categories, new calculations and larger available credits, Murphy said.
“We have everything right here to dominate the innovation economy — the people, the extraordinary talent, our location, our history,” he said. “We’ve led this space before, and through these programs we will again.”
Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber introduced Murphy against the backdrop of the Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs wet laboratory space. The 31,000-square-foot facility is designed to encourage collaboration, with shared work areas and many types of meeting spaces where scientists and entrepreneurs can exchange techniques and spark new ideas.
“We believe that these cross-sector partnerships will foster a vibrant innovation ecosystem with the potential to generate transformative ideas, benefit the regional economy and attract top talent — outcomes that will make central New Jersey an increasingly attractive place for all who live, learn and work here,” Eisgruber said.
In attendance were State Treasurer Elizabeth Maher Muoio, leaders of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Mercer County and Princeton officials, and representatives from many of the state’s incubators and innovation organizations.
The Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs is among the 29 incubators, seven accelerators and 31 co-working facilities operating in New Jersey.
With ICWRI, startup companies seeking to join collaborative workspaces will be eligible for two-, four- or six-month grants to cover their rent. Workspaces will co-invest for half the amount. If those companies seek to join a collaborative workspace in one of the state’s 169 economic opportunity zones or one that is affiliated with a hospital or university, they will receive up to an additional three months’ rent.
Anne-Marie Maman, executive director of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Council, gave remarks in her capacity as president of the New Jersey Business Incubation Network.
“The New Jersey Business Innovation Network appreciates the governor’s announcements today and the innovative approach that Governor Murphy and his team are taking to kickstarting seed funding in New Jersey,” Maman said. “We have firsthand experience with how difficult it is to secure early funding. State programs that help startups to conserve their limited cash are critical to growing our innovation economy.”
Debbie Hart, founding president and chief executive officer of BioNJ, an industry group for biotechnology and life sciences companies, said while half of all new drug approvals made by the Food and Drug Administration in 2017 were granted to companies with a footprint in New Jersey, more can be done to increase innovation in the state.
“We need to foster an environment that helps companies thrive and attracts new startups and increases funding,” Hart said. “It is imperative that the state continue to build on its current support of the industry, keeping New Jersey competitive.”
“Perhaps the very best news of the day,” she said, “is that we have a governor who gets it.”
Located 3 miles from the Princeton campus, Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs offers co-working lab and office space for high-tech startup companies formed by Princeton University faculty, students and alumni as well as members of the wider New Jersey community.
It includes fully equipped work spaces for biology, chemistry and engineering companies, with 68 lab benches, private offices and shared desks for more than 200 scientists and entrepreneurs. When full, Princeton Innovation Center BioLabs will house 25 or more small companies.
A video of the full news conference is available on YouTube.