Fueling Tomorrow's Innovations: EDC Entrepreneurs Connect with NJII Industry Veterans

Entrepreneurs from NJIT's Enterprise Development Center meet with industry veterans from the New Jersey Innovation Institute to identify industry trends and market opportunities.

NJIT’s New Jersey Innovation Institute is designed to be an economic engine, spurring growth in sectors ranging from civil infrastructure, to healthcare, to financial services, through problem-focused partnerships between academia and industry. Driving innovation from the ground up is also a vital part of that mission, say start-up and expansion technology companies in the region.

With an eye toward growing and expanding their businesses, representatives from dozens of existing and prospective technology and life sciences companies in NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center (EDC), as well as from healthcare IT companies in the region, among others, met at an open house this week with the directors of NJII’s innovation labs (iLabs). Participants say they relished the chance to speak in depth with savvy, well-connected industry veterans who are in tune with trends in key sectors and in contact with larger companies searching for critical new technologies.

“For companies, it’s a huge opportunity to meet face-to-face with the iLabs to present our innovations. NJII helps us find good fits for our products while connecting us with partners that can lead to opportunities for financing and commercialization,” said Denise Spell, vice present of business development for software company S & A Technologies, an EDC tenant. “In fact, our company was recently connected to a Fortune 500 company in the area and we have become partners on software projects.  This would have been all but impossible for a small business to achieve so quickly without the help of NJII.”

Companies heard from the directors of NJII’s five iLabs, which focus on healthcare delivery systems, bio-pharmaceutical production, civil infrastructure, defense and homeland security and financial services, as well as from representatives from other core NJII labs working in areas such as data analytics.

Thomas Motyka, senior executive director of Smart Cities Innovation, part of the civil infrastructure iLab, made a pitch to EDC companies to join efforts to make cities more efficient with a host of technologies that, for example, improve traffic and parking, streamline the delivery of city services and help residents recover lost property, among many others. NJII, he said, will be working with IBM, Panasonic and Juniper Networks to implement a test bed for new applications.

Colette Santasieri, director of Policy and Planning Innovation for Civil Infrastructure and Environment, part of the same iLab, presented her work on brownfields cleanup and redevelopment,   transit-oriented development and community sustainability and resilience, among other areas.

“What’s exciting about the EDC is joining a community of like-minded people and getting the chance to see and understand what other innovative companies are doing,” said Craig Miller, a co-founder of SeroClear, an EDC start-up company developing therapies to counter diabetes complications such as glucose toxicity. “The open house with NJII program directors gave us a vision of how the community is moving forward and how we all fit into it.  For our company specifically, we were able to make three connections that will add value to our business.”

“NJII is synonymous with opportunity, job creation and retention and economic growth.  It is a creative university business model and catalyst for private-public sector collaboration, clearly a timely win-win initiative for today’s entrepreneurial communities,” said Gerald Creighton, the EDC’s executive director.

NJII directors, in turn, say they value the opportunity to connect with people creating new technologies and services.

“EDC provides a rich opportunity for NJIT and NJII to meet with people directly engaged in innovation and sometimes it takes this kind of engagement to recognize just how important they are to the eco-system,” said William Marshall, NJII’s assistant vice president for government affairs and director of the defense and homeland security iLab, who spoke at the event about his iLab’s work on unmanned aircraft systems, among other areas.

Representatives from the Small Business Administration (SBA) office in Newark, which guides companies in pursuit of federal contracts, among other services, the Greater Newark Enterprise Corp., a non-profit lending organization which makes loans and microloans to start-up companies, and an office of the SBA-backed Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which provides free business consulting and low-cost training services to small businesses, also attended.