EDA’s Innovation Challenge to offer communities chance to earn awards up to $100K

When it comes to spurring an innovation economy in the state, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority is putting its money where its mouth is.

The EDA on Tuesday announced the Innovation Challenge, a program that will give eligible communities the opportunity to receive funds for plans that strengthen their local innovation ecosystems. The program will launch as a pilot round with awards of up to $100,000 per recipient.

“Providing seed funding to catalyze planning and key investments is an important step in advancing Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s mission of reclaiming the innovation economy,” Tim Sullivan, EDA CEO, said. “This program will help our communities advance plans and build the capacity they need to drive innovation-centered economic development.”

Murphy said the program is just what the state needs.

“Now is the time for the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of New Jersey to shine, as we ignite our potential to grow an innovation economy,” he said. “We want specific plans that will support inclusive economic development and enhance the local business ecosystem.”

Communities can submit proposals to the Innovation Challenge program on a wide range of relevant topics, such as real estate, infrastructure, green energy projects or STEM education and job training. Plans may focus on several key areas including, but not limited to:

  • Increasing opportunities to grow or expand clusters of dynamic companies;
  • Encouraging the growth and expansion of incubators and other innovation-supportive real estate spaces;
  • Providing STEM training and connections to careers; and
  • Building a culture of entrepreneurship.

For this pilot Innovation Challenge, the funding pool is set at up to $500,000.

Applicants must commit to a 20 percent match through financial or in-kind resources, with preference given to those that include additional funding commitments from anchor institutions or other strategic partners. Applicants must be cities or partnered municipalities representing at least 25,000 people, or county or regional partnerships that collectively represent at least 100,000 people.

Applications must demonstrate a viable path to bring ideas to implementation, including a collaborative stakeholder engagement process and strategy. Applications will also be scored against the anticipated economic and social impact; an ability to track results; transferability; and existing staff capacity and management experience.

The EDA anticipates releasing the Request for Proposals/Qualifications in July. Click here for updates.

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