Database aims to keep research dollars in N.J.

New Jersey is aiming to recoup research dollars that are escaping the state and elevate its research institutes with a new database initiative announced Wednesday.

The inaugural meeting of the New Jersey Research Asset Database board of advisors, which is currently under development, confirmed that Amsterdam-based Elsevier has been selected to build the platform that will connect the state’s companies with research opportunities with five New Jersey universities.

The list of two private and three public higher education institutions that will include 5,000 researchers selected to be pilot participants comes with no surprises. It includes Princeton University, Stevens Institute of Technology, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Rowan University and Rutgers University.

“The genesis of the RAD initiative stems from a 2010 report issued by the New Jersey Policy Research Organization, which included key recommendations to advance collaborative opportunities between academia and industry. The Legislature and Gov. (Chris Christie) subsequently authorized $1.5 million in the fiscal year 2017 state budget to support development of the RAD,” according to a statement from the state Office of Higher Education.

“In July 2017, Elsevier, a global information and analytics company, was selected to create the database following a competitive request for proposal process led by the New Jersey Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.”

The meeting Wednesday took place at the EDA’s Commercialization Center for Innovative Technologies on the Technology Centre of New Jersey campus in North Brunswick.

Melanie Willoughby, chief government affairs officer of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, told ROI-NJ there had been anecdotes of missed opportunities shared over the years, and this new database should seal the leak of outflowing research money.

“National associations have a list of universities that they can give their national companies of where to go for collaborations,” she said. “The national chemical industry did not have New Jersey on (the list), even though we have some of the largest chemical industry manufactures in the country. And Rutgers, which is a humongous chemical industry research center. These are the kinds of things we want to resolve. We want to connect the dots.”

And the new database would not only put the state on the map nationally for research opportunities, but globally as well.

“We actually surveyed our big companies about what would be helpful to them. They pointed to examples in other states that have actually put together these research asset databases that help them to figure out if there is a match for collaboration,” Willoughby said. “We had to figure out who would own it, where the money would come from and who would run it. We were able to figure out all those details with the EDA and Office of Higher Education.”

To date, it has been a challenge to try to match collaboration efforts in the state, according to Dean Paranicas, CEO and president of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey.

“This is a tremendous step forward in terms of what we can provide to our life sciences community to have them be able to more fully leverage the assets that exist in New Jersey, that’s real progress,” he said. “I commend the efforts of the state and the EDA and all of the participants and universities in terms of their engagement.”

The move may also resolve the problem of keeping students in the state, Willoughby said.

If the students have a way to see the results of collaborations and the anticipated elevation of researchers in the state, it will, especially in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, promote greater pride at home.

“As chair of the Council on Innovation, which has been focused on aligning businesses and academic institutions to grow New Jersey’s economy, I am thrilled to announce the creation of the New Jersey Research Asset Database — a comprehensive online portal that will serve to strengthen the ability of our institutions to compete on a national and global scale,” said Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks.  “The RAD will serve as a gateway to innovation, allowing us to better market commercial ideas and products and attract more federal funds to ensure groundbreaking research can continue at our world-class institutions.”

Advisory board members include representatives from the five research universities as well as representatives from the NJBIA, Choose New Jersey, BioNJ, HINJ, the Research and Development Council of New Jersey and the New Jersey Tech Council, according to the statement Wednesday. OSHE and EDA will serve as staff to the board.

“The RAD will allow New Jersey’s diverse and thriving industry sectors to better meet their strategic and research needs by providing a direct pathway to the research, experts and facilities at the state’s renowned academic institutions, which will stimulate technology-led economic development,” said EDA CEO Melissa Orsen.  “Elsevier has demonstrable success and expertise in advancing similar information systems, and we are confident that the New Jersey Research Asset Database will set a new standard for innovation exchange.”

“We are very pleased to be supporting research and innovation in the state of New Jersey,” said JC Heyneke, senior vice president for Elsevier’s Pure platform, which has been building similar databases for two decades. “By leveraging Elsevier’s data in Scopus, and technology in our Pure solution, we will help New Jersey researchers, universities and state offices showcase the incredible depth and breadth of research assets in New Jersey.”

Willoughby said this will help ensure better relationships are built in the state in the future.

“What businesses want is to have easy access to information to guide them to research capabilities within their own state. This is going to provide it,” Willoughby said. “NJBIA will be promoting it dramatically to all our companies. It’s going to require tapping into all of the business associations to promote it to companies, so it gets the usage it deserves.”