In Newark, Government and industry leaders gathered at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to join NJIT President Joel S. Bloom in the launching of the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII),
an NJIT corporation that provides a new model for business innovation through the leveraging of industry, government, and higher education assets and investment. The emergence on the Innovation institute was the culmination of a series of recommendations coming from the the Newark Manufacturing Initiative (NMI), which has included a collaboration with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. This collaboration had focused on the development of transformative strategies to improve the local and regional climate for manufacturing. Their recommendation were presented last year at NJIT, and is a follow-up commitment made by the president last year now materialized.
Newark, is home to a diverse array of manufacturing activities—from food, apparel, and chemical production to metal fabrication— the city of Newark’s industrial legacy is widely appreciated. However, the city’s manufacturing sector, like the nation’s, has transformed dramatically in recent decades, reshaped by local, regional, and global economic forces. Today, most of Newark’s 400 manufacturers are small businesses that compete under different constraints than they and their predecessors did only a generation ago. Some have adapted well to shifting conditions, while others have stagnated or struggled to stay competitive.
Newark manufacturing is a small but promising sector that stands at an important crossroads. Yet, in recent years, trends regarding the structure, scale, and value of the sector to the city and region have neither been well-documented nor well understood. Instead, as in many American cities, misconceptions about manufacturing persist in Newark, compounding challenges for businesses and resulting in lost economic opportunities.
The New Jersey Innovation Institute, will not be limited solely to manufacturing, but rather leverage assets from each sector and create opportunities for them to collaborate, according to an NJIT news release. Dr. Bloom said, “The Innovation Institute will be separate entity, with it own 501(c) 3 status and a board of directors”. The ultimate goal is to find technological solutions to meet needs of the industries — civil infrastructure, defense and homeland security, health care delivery systems, bio-pharmaceutical production and financial services — spurring economic development and job creation.
U.S. Senator Cory Booker, added, “NJII is poised to help industries at every stage — from the birth of an idea in a lab to refining how that idea is produced. The New Jersey Innovation Institute is going to help our state remain one of America’s most important engines for economic growth and global competitiveness.”
Bloom noted NJIT’s long history of partnership with private industry, saying, “Economic development…is in NJIT’s blood and is expressly stated as part of our mission.”
“From the very beginning, our university was created to provide a skilled workforce that could serve New Jersey industries,” Bloom said. “And, throughout our history, we have viewed industry as a true partner, adapting over time and engaging in a range of business-friendly ventures because we recognize that our success and the success of our graduates are undeniably intertwined with the success of New Jersey industry.”
“We are not repackaging what NJIT is already producing,” Don Sebastian, the president of the innovation institute, said in a prepared statement. “We are asking industry what we can do for them. By following industry-led agendas designed to spur economic development and business growth, NJIT will facilitate product creation (and) enhancement and develop technological solutions for sector-wide and/or company-focused challenges.”
Five sector-focused innovation labs will comprise the Innovation Institute, and those labs will specialize in developing technological solutions to challenges identified by industry partners as well as providing a broad range of related services identified by those partners.
The initial sectors supported by innovation labs include:
Defense and Homeland Security
Healthcare Delivery Systems
Taylor explained that NJII will fill a critical area of need for manufacturing companies, like Panasonic. “The future for our companies…in terms of the innovation and technology and the workers of the future is almost solely dependent upon our relationships with academia and the universities….The New Jersey Innovation Institute is perfectly timed.”
Also in attendance were Panasonic Corp. of North America Chairman and CEO Joe Taylor, New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno, New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks, and New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak attended the NJII event and discussed the importance of the venture as well as its potential to facilitate economic development through the marriage of industry-driven agendas and NJIT’s intellectual and technological assets.
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