On January 7, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act (ERA) into law. Assembly Bill No. 5939 revised various provisions of the ERA and established the New Jersey Innovation Fellows Program (NJIF/Program) under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA/Authority). On November 16, 2022, the Authority’s Board approved the NJIF program.
The Program utilizes a $10 million legislative appropriation to provide teams of entrepreneurs with the security of initial income replacement while pursuing the opportunity of starting unique startup ventures. Approved teams (Innovation Fellows/Fellows) are qualified to a receive a $200,000 grant as a base award during a 2-year “incubation” period or ideation stage of their business. The collaborative program functions as springboard for early-stage startups to grow their ideas into functioning business models and eventually as working businesses within NJ’s innovative ecosystem. Fellows have access to other local founders, mentorship, advisory support, office space and investors though the program.
Per program policy and in accordance with the legislation, this NJIF funding source is uniquely designed to address inequities between socioeconomic background and entrepreneurship. Specially, applicants can earn up to $200,000 in bonuses for certifying that they reside in a designated NJ opportunity zone, applicants certifying as a “diverse entrepreneur” and graduates of New Jersey college or university (including two-year and four-year schools). The program is expected to deliver the follow the following benefits:
- Grow New Jerseys entrepreneur base and its innovation economy
- Support development of programmatic resources to bridge market gaps for underserved/under resourced entrepreneurs
- Drive the formation and growth of promising new ventures
- Help New Jersey achieve Governor Murphy’s goal to become the most diverse state of innovation in the country
There will be 5% fee asses on the full appropriated amount for the NJEDA’s administration and fund the mentorship requirement. Additionally, NJEDA will charge a $250 application fee.