NJEDA seeks communities for second round of Innovation Challenge

Is your town innovative?

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is currently accepting applicants for another round of funding for municipalities and counties to develop plans to enhance their local innovation ecosystems. The successful response to the first round of the Innovation Challenge, in which nine communities received $100,000 each, prompted the EDA to initiate a second round.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the Innovation Challenge in July, with the first round of successful applicants being released in September. After evaluation and scoring by the NJEDA board, the $100,000 contracts were approved for Bridgeton, New Brunswick, Passaic County, Trenton, Atlantic County, Atlantic City, Camden County, Union Township and Monmouth County.

According to the EDA, the $100,000 will advance the communities’ planning projects in partnership with higher education institutions and other strategic partners. This round of planning projects is expected to be completed within six to nine months.

NJEDA has set aside $500,000 for grants of up to $100,000 each for the second round.

“As the EDA team begins working with each of the first round of Innovation Challenge winners, we eagerly anticipate proposals for additional projects that will help to lay the groundwork for Gov. Murphy’s goal of a stronger and fairer economy,” NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan said. “Municipalities and counties are embracing the idea of making New Jersey the ‘State of Innovation’ by engaging with public and private entities to invest strategically in our communities in ways that will lead to inclusive and sustainable economic development.”

The EDA said Murphy is asking communities to look for more creative rather than traditional approaches to building public-private and community partnerships, nurturing entrepreneurship and upgrading infrastructure.

Goals of the Innovation Challenge include inclusive economic growth, growing the number of local startups, better access to STEM jobs, attraction of top talent/employers, increased commercial activity in underdeveloped metro areas, building entrepreneurial culture and improving infrastructure such as broadband capacity, walkability or access to public transit.

Applicants are evaluated and awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Guidelines to assess applicants include, but are not limited to, evidence the proposal achieves at least one of the challenge’s goals, strength of the partnerships — higher-ed/strategic, additional funding from outside sources, emphasis on solutions based on the use of new and emerging technologies, demonstrated improvement of local health/quality of life and ability to execute a planning project.

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