A STEM powerhouse, NJIT makes partnerships industry standard

New Jersey Institute of Technology demonstrates the effectiveness of academic, government and industry partnerships tackling infrastructure challenges of the 21st century

A regional coalition led by Newark and New Jersey Institute of Technology is among 60 projects selected as finalists for funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

Over 500 applicants submitted proposals for the regional challenge that aims to boost economic pandemic recovery and rebuild American communities. The regional challenge provides transformative investments — up to $100 million per grantee — to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters across the country, all while embracing economic equity, creating good-paying jobs and enhancing U.S. competitiveness globally.

Named the Greater Newark Smart Port Regional Growth Cluster, the project is both a supply chain accelerator and job multiplier that will spur economic development throughout the region. Its focus is on transforming the Port of New York and New Jersey facilities in Newark and Elizabeth by developing critical smart and resilient infrastructure through advanced engineering, modeling and artificial intelligence-based innovative technologies for freight handling, transportation, tracking and delivery, and by supporting more efficient operations to increase port capacity and security.

The proposed projects will create new jobs and business opportunities in a region with socioeconomically underprivileged communities, while making a sustainable impact on the regional and state economy.

“As the state of New Jersey’s public polytechnic university and a partner with the city of Newark, NJIT will bring broad and deep expertise in the technological and innovative aspects of this effort,” NJIT President Joel S. Bloom said. “The projects undertaken will be central to the operation of Port Newark and to growing its regional economic impact. New Jersey transportation and other regional port systems also will benefit through the establishment of a center for transportation innovation, commercialization and tech transfer.”

NJIT’s expertise also made headlines through a different Newark partnership, as NJIT was instrumental in the research and development to replace lead service water lines. Responding quickly to the crisis, NJIT research teams developed and tested chemical methods to prevent lead-shedding corrosion.

The team set up a lab on campus to test for the presence of lead in excavated pipes and to determine how well orthophosphate is building up in the service lines to block corrosion, an electrochemical process. Trained by the EPA’s scientific research office, NJIT undergraduate and graduate students evaluated pipe replacements to ensure efficacy.

“We have a strong interest and involvement in lead-mitigating programs in our city, Newark,” said Moshe Kam, dean of NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering. “At the same time, we use this citywide effort to educate the next generation of engineers. Graduate and undergraduate students from the college would experience through this project the critical societal impact of engineering; the strong connection between theoretical studies and lab experiments on one hand, and real-life challenges in the urban environment on the other; and the responsibility that engineers owe to the welfare and health of their communities. This experience is likely to serve our engineers-in-training for many years of their future professional careers.”

The process for removing lead pipes throughout the city has been hailed as a national model by Vice President Kamala Harris in a recent trip to Newark. More than 23,000 lead service pipes were removed in two and a half years with funding from Essex County, at no cost to the homeowner.

“This was a 10-year project,” said Kareem Adeem, director of Newark Water and Sewer. “We didn’t have a decade. We wanted to show we could do things efficiently, effectively and immediately. And that’s what we did.”