Innovation central: Princeton, Rutgers, RWJBH and HMH announced as anchor tenants at The Hub

Collaborative site in downtown New Brunswick aims to foster research, entrepreneurship, innovation and startup incubation in N.J.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s dream of returning New Jersey to its place as the nation’s leader in innovative companies and ideas got a boost Thursday when he announced the state’s two leading health systems and two leading universities will be anchor tenants at The Hub in New Brunswick.

Princeton University, Rutgers University, Hackensack Meridian Health and RWJBarnabas Health will be the first tenants of The Hub, which is viewed as a new collaborative site in downtown New Brunswick designed to foster research, entrepreneurship, innovation and startup incubation in New Jersey.

A rendering of The Hub. (Courtesy rendering)

“This project is a major step in helping New Jersey reclaim its spot at the top of the innovation economy,” Murphy said. “The Hub will allow us to harness the collective experience of two of the country’s most prestigious research universities and two of its largest health care systems, which will serve to revolutionize research and development in our state.”

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority also will serve to drive activity at The Hub.

The primary mission of The Hub, scheduled to open in New Brunswick in 2024, will be to nurture the growth of startup companies and new technologies in a range of industries, and to support the rapid translation and real-world application of innovation so those new ventures grow and expand the New Jersey economy.

Chris Paladino, the president of New Brunswick Development Corp. and the developer on the project, said the hope is to break ground in the summer of 2021 and be open by January 2024.

The bigger hope is that The Hub will spark growth akin to similar-type areas in Boston, Philadelphia and in Silicon Valley.

Here’s the plan:

The initial build will include a 10-story, 210,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building with mixed-use nonresidential space in downtown New Brunswick with a direct connection to the Northeast Corridor rail line providing strong proximity to existing corporate, medical and academic research activity.

The building will be organized into three major components:

  • Innovation Center: Comprised of 95,000 square feet, the Innovation Center will provide areas for modern workspace designed to foster collaboration among researchers, entrepreneurs, startup companies and others. This space will be available for a variety of membership packages providing a collaborative, full-service work environment;
  • Core Partner Space: This 55,000-square-foot area will provide Rutgers University, RWJBarnabas Health, Hackensack Meridian Health and DEVCO with collaborative and office spaces ensuring proximity to the Innovation Center and fostering direct connections with innovators in real time;
  • Corporate or Institutional Tenant: The remaining 60,000 square feet (three stories) will be available for separate leases by corporate or institutional tenants. The first among these will be Princeton University.

In addition to the core tenants, there will be participation by various established companies from such industries as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, life sciences, advanced technologies, telecom, artificial intelligence, fintech and many others. These partners, recognized as “industry influencers,” will provide important support for entrepreneurs and startups, and contribute to the ecosystem by participating in sponsored events, programming and a mentorship network, and by utilizing studio space to foster collaboration with member companies.

Amenities will include a ground floor maker space, second floor event space, lobby café and direct connection to a structured parking facility, including a fitness and wellness center.

The site, which is owned by the city of New Brunswick, will be managed by DEVCO.

A rendering of The Hub. (Courtesy rendering)

Rutgers President Johnathan Holloway said the possibilities of the project was one of the things that attracted him to the presidency.

“The Hub is about leveraging the shared commitment of Rutgers and the other partners to help New Jersey regain its position as an innovation powerhouse — regionally, nationally and globally,” he said. “It will serve as a powerful engine to speed the translation of research and take discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace.”

Princeton Vice Dean for Innovation Rodney Priestley agreed.

“At a time when society is facing multiple interwoven challenges to our health and economic well-being, support for innovation is essential for bringing creative and diverse minds together to forge solutions and build opportunity,” he said. “Through our role as The Hub’s first institutional tenant, Princeton University will help transform our region into a vibrant center of innovation with a firm commitment to ensuring inclusive participation.

“By harnessing the vast reservoirs of ingenuity among our regional research institutions, together with community and industry partners, we will build a better future.”

Hackensack Meridian CEO Bob Garrett said the partnership will provide a new model of collaboration between government, academia and health care and add greatly to the state’s rich legacy of innovation.

“Hackensack Meridian Health is proud to join the proposed New Jersey Innovation and Technology Hub in New Brunswick as a core partner, a venture that will no doubt support breakthroughs in science and technology to benefit all New Jersey residents,” he said.

For RWJBarnabas CEO Barry Ostrowsky, the Hub is a model for bringing minds together.

“RWJBarnabas Health strongly supports The Hub, as it reflects our longstanding commitment to innovation through our partnership with Rutgers University, Middlesex County and the city of New Brunswick,” he said. “Today’s announcement is an expansion of our collective efforts to bring science and technology together to advance innovation, create new jobs and strengthen our economy in one of New Jersey’s most vibrant cities.”

Other comments on the project:

  • New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill: “The HUB firmly establishes New Brunswick as the epicenter of innovation, technology, research and business incubation, and will position New Brunswick as a leader in meeting the future demands in these fields that impact so much that affects everyday life. We are grateful for the vision and efforts of Gov. Murphy, the state of New Jersey and the core partners for making The Hub a reality.”
  • Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Woodbridge): “By promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, we will see more job-creating, startup businesses created in our state. The $175 million investment in The Hub will be a boon for New Brunswick and the entire state of New Jersey.”
  • Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders Director Ronald Rios: “Middlesex County is actively building its economic ecosystem by attracting established and emerging businesses, industry professionals and investors, ultimately fostering a community of innovation. The creation of the HUB not only aligns with that strategy, but contributes to the growth of this ecosystem, with the strength of our industry partners like Rutgers University, Hackensack Meridian Health, RWJBarnabas Health, NJEDA, DEVCO and Princeton University, bringing unprecedented prosperity and limitless opportunities to our county’s seat. We commend and thank Gov. Phil Murphy and the state of New Jersey, along with our partners, for their efforts in driving this project forward.”
  • U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.): “The New Jersey Technology and Innovation Hub will bolster New Jersey’s reputation as a leader in innovation and emerging technologies. The Hub will bring together our state’s leading research institutions, health care companies, and technology firms to solve some of our country’s most pressing problems. As chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, I see firsthand just how important this level of collaboration is to our country’s leadership and economic growth. I’m proud that my district will lead the way in the growth of new technologies and collaboration that will foster economic development and innovation right here in New Jersey for years to come. I would like to thank everyone who is working hard to make this vision a reality and look forward to its opening.”
  • NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan: “The Hub represents Gov. Murphy’s commitment to supporting young, innovative companies as part of a strategy for driving equitable long-term growth. This collaboration between our partners in the academic and private sectors will help to prepare our workforce to take on challenging innovation sector career opportunities.”
  • Kevin Duncan, president of the Middlesex County Building & Construction Trades Council: “The Middlesex County Building & Construction Trades Council salutes the efforts and leadership of the governor, DEVCO, Mayor Cahill, Middlesex County and all the partners committed to this project. The Hub will not only serve as a gateway to unlimited economic development opportunities for years to come; but will ensure that the best trained men and women of all of our unions will be the ones building this critical structure.”