Start of something big: Why $271M Aspire credit may be 1st step to making state hub of innovation

Award is going to the HELIX in New Brunswick, which aims to be central player in translational research in life sciences


The Aspire program was created to provide gap financing for enormous economic development projects that could have a transformative impact on the state — but would otherwise not be able to be completed.

That the first Aspire award would go to a project that aims to help build the innovation economy that Gov. Phil Murphy has championed since the days when he was candidate Murphy, is just a bonus for the administration.

On Wednesday, the board of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority approved a $271 million tax credit to support the development of what is being called the HELIX, the New Jersey Health + Life Sciences Exchange.


The HELIX, in downtown New Brunswick, will bring together a combination of public and private entities committed to translational research in life science in a 12-story, 573,400-square-foot building.

The building, with an estimated $750 million in capital investments, will have three major components:

All of the necessary sitework at the location has been completed. Work on the building is expected to begin this spring, with an aim to complete the project in the fall of 2025.

When completed, various entities of Rutgers will join Hackensack Meridian Health, RWJBarnabas Health, Princeton University and Middlesex County as the primary tenants.

The New Brunswick Development Corp., the site’s master developer, also will have a presence.

The $271 million award was technically provided to NJ Innovation Associates Urban Renewal, a special purpose entity that includes DEVCO as its only member.

The significance and symbolism of the award cannot be overstated, state officials said.

This credit not only represents the first award of the award program, it also represents the first of what the state hopes will be many awards from the transformative portion of Aspire.


(As a reminder, the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 created the Aspire and Emerge programs — essentially successors to the ERG and Grow New Jersey programs. They share a $1.1 billion annual awards cap during the six-year program. There also is a transformative award program under Aspire that includes $2.5 billion over the life of the act. This award falls under that program. For a full breakdown, click here.)

Tim Sullivan, the CEO of the EDA, said the award Wednesday is a major moment for the state.

“From the beginning of the administration, Gov. Murphy has talked about reclaiming New Jersey’s leadership position in innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said. “That strategy is centered around three main themes: talent, capital and real estate.

“The talent comes from our major investments in higher education. Attracting and retaining talent in the state is a critical part of that.

“The capital is our unique Evergreen Innovation Fund, which already has proven to be success.

“The real estate is the HELIX, because innovation-driven spaces create the future generation of great New Jersey companies.”

Sullivan said the state feels the HELIX will enable New Jersey to better complete with Cambridge (near Boston) and Silicon Valley (in Northern California).

“When you combine the big capital investments with things like Evergreen and the angel tax credit, with spaces like the HELIX and with some of the tools that we’ve introduced to support new incubator spaces and accelerator spaces, we think we’ve got a winning strategy to realize the governor’s vision for making New Jersey the most innovative state in America,” he said.