Translate
Facebook
X
Instagram
LinkedIn
Youtube

NEW JERSEY INNOVATION FELLOWS PROGRAM


The application window for this program closed on June 19, 2023 at 5:00PM. Please check back for insight on timing for the next cohort.

The Innovation Fellows program will support would-be entrepreneurs, particularly diverse entrepreneurs, with “income replacement” grants. This resource creates an opportunity for the entrepreneurs to pursue unique startup business ventures with the security of initial income replacement funding in the two-year ideation and formation period of their businesses.

Per program policy and in accordance with the legislation, approved teams will be qualified to receive $200,000 as a base award, and up to $200,000 in bonuses (resulting in a total $400,000 award). Bonuses include $50,000 if any one of the entrepreneurs in a team resides in an Opportunity Zone within the State. An additional $50,000 bonus is awarded for each Entrepreneur leader on the Fellows team with a diversity self-certification or education bonus up to $150,000, resulting in a total potential award of $400,000.

Awards will be disbursed over eight quarters to teams that meet and maintain compliance milestones.

PROGRAM DETAILS

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:

  1. Grow New Jerseys entrepreneur base and its innovation economy
  2. Support development of programmatic resources to bridge market gaps for underserved/under resourced entrepreneurs
  3. Drive the formation and growth of promising new ventures
  4. 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.

APPLICANT ELIGIBILITY

To be eligible for consideration of this grant award, an applicant must demonstrate the following eligibility requirements. The “applicant” is the business idea/venture that the team of entrepreneurs are pursuing.

Application Eligibility

  • Applicant must consist of no less than three (3), full-time entrepreneurs leading the proposed venture, half must be first-time entrepreneurs
  • The applicant must submit a complete and well-written business plan for the venture available in presentation format similar to the sample template to be posted on the NJEDA website
  • The venture must operate within New Jersey’s “Targeted Industries”
  • The venture must have a registered address located within an “eligible municipality” within New Jersey that may have a commercial or residential address
  • Applicant venture must be registered with the State within 30 days of award notice in order to close on grant award, as evidenced by a valid business registration
  • Current tax clearance certificate of the newly formed business
  • Funds must be used as income-replacement

Entrepreneur Eligibility

FIRST-TIME ENTREPRENEUR PARTICIPATION

A first-time entrepreneur must be leaving current employment/venture (no more than 60 days leading up to application date) to start a new venture with at-least two other entrepreneurs. At least half (50%) of the entrepreneur leadership must certify as “first-time entrepreneurs.” First time entrepreneurs must certify they have never been listed as a founder, co-founder, or owner of a business entity which operated in a targeted industry in the state of New Jersey and has received third-party funding. Third-party funding includes professional Angel investment, institutional Venture (VC), or Private Equity (PE) capital.

  • At least 50% of the Approved Business leadership must be “first-time entrepreneurs”
  • The entrepreneur leadership team must have majority equity interest (>50%) in the applicant
  • All grant recipients to receive income from award of the Fellows Program must have paid gross-income tax to New Jersey at the time of application or within 60 days leading up to application
  • Entrepreneur leadership must commit to working at the venture on a full-time basis for two years following receipt of the fellowship grant. “Full-Time basis” is 35 hours/week; Entrepreneur leadership must not engage in part-time or outside work for more than 20 hours per week
  • All grant recipients must commit to continue to pay gross income tax to New Jersey during the program’s two-year period
  • Entrepreneur leadership must commit to participate in a mentorship program for the program’s duration

MENTORSHIP PROGRAM

Entrepreneur fellows will be required to participate in the mentorship programs facilitated by the New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII) or The Rowan Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (RCIE) as a condition of their grant award, which will incorporate virtual and in-person meetings. They must also maintain satisfactory attendance throughout the duration of the mentorship program – which will last the two-year duration of the fellowship program.

The initial general-operations curriculum will train the entrepreneurs in the following subject matters:

  • Managerial Finance, Accounting, & Financial Statements preparations
  • Human Resources development & management
  • Marketing & Customer Development
  • Product design, development & management
  • Capital sourcing & raise
  • Vision Mapping
  • Buyer Personas
  • Business Model Design
  • Contracts & Business structures (Legal studies)

TARGETED INDUSTRIES

The Authority developed definitions and policy interpretations for each of the listed industries within the definition of “Targeted industry”. The Authority may consider whether a business fits into another innovative industry that disrupts current technologies or business models, by assessing factors such as, whether businesses in the industry are offering products or services that significantly improve current market offerings on the basis of price or other performance levels, whether the new industry creates opportunities for new firms to enter and redefine the supply chain or value chain of an industry, or whether the industry utilizes new technology or business processes that allow New Jersey-based firms to collect a share of revenues that were traditionally only available to companies in other geographies. To see a full list of the NJEDA’s targeted industries and their definitions and interpretations, please click here.

  • Advanced Transportation and Logistics
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Aviation
  • Autonomous Vehicle and Zero-emissions research or development
  • Clean Energy
  • Clean Tech
  • Life Sciences
  • Hemp Processing
  • Information and High Technology
  • Finance and Insurance
  • Professional Services
  • Film and Digital Media
  • Non-retail food and beverage business (including food innovation)

ELIGIBLE MUNICIPALITIES

  • Absecon
  • Alpha
  • Asbury Park
  • Atlantic City
  • Bayonne
  • Belleville
  • Bergenfield
  • Bloomfield
  • Bloomsbury
  • Brick Township
  • Bridgeton
  • Burlington City
  • Camden
  • Carteret
  • Cliffside Park
  • Clifton
  • East Orange
  • Elizabeth
  • Garfield
  • Glassboro
  • Gloucester City
  • Gloucester Township
  • Greenwich Township (Warren)
  • Hackensack
  • Harrison Town (Hudson)
  • Hillside
  • Hoboken
  • Irvington


  • Jersey City
  • Keansburg
  • Kearny
  • Lakewood Township
  • Lindenwold
  • Lodi
  • Long Branch
  • Lopatcong Township
  • Millville
  • Monroe Township (Gloucester)
  • Montclair
  • Mount Holly
  • Neptune City
  • Neptune Township
  • New Brunswick
  • Newark
  • North Bergen
  • Nutley
  • Old Bridge Township
  • Orange
  • Passaic
  • Paterson
  • Pemberton Township
  • Penns Grove
  • Pennsauken Township
  • Perth Amboy
  • Phillipsburg
  • Plainfield


  • Plainsboro Township
  • Pleasantville
  • Pohatcong Township
  • Princeton
  • Rahway
  • Roselle
  • Salem
  • Seaside Heights
  • Secaucus
  • South Brunswick
  • South Orange
  • Trenton
  • Union City
  • Vineland
  • Weehawken
  • West New York
  • West Windsor
  • Willingboro Township
  • Winslow Township
  • Woodbridge Township
  • Woodbury

AWARD SIZE

The base award shall be $200,000 per team and shall be used as income-replacement for entrepreneurs who leave the workforce to open and operate a business in an eligible municipality

  • A team may receive an additional $50,000 bonus if one of the identified Entrepreneurs resides in an Opportunity Zone at the time of application
  • A team of Entrepreneurs that includes at least one member who is a graduate of a New Jersey college or university, or is a diverse entrepreneur, and meets the eligibility requirements, may receive $50,000 legislated bonuses for each certifying entrepreneur leader for up to three bonus awards totaling $150,000
    • “New Jersey college or University” includes 2- or 4- year colleges
    • Statue that defines minority status for NJIF is: section 2 of P.L.1997, c.349 (C.54:10A-5.29). However, the statute uses “diverse entrepreneur” as defined in the Angel Investor Tax Credit program: “a New Jersey based business that meets the criteria for a minority business or female business” for certification by the State. Although the statutory definition refers to a definition of “minority business” and “female business” in N.J.S.A. 52:32-19, which in turn require certain ownership percentages by the minority persons or women, the program statute only requires one member of the team to qualify as a “diverse entrepreneur.” Additionally, program applicants will consist of teams of entrepreneurs, not fully formed businesses. Thus, the Authority will accept an individual entrepreneur’s minority self-certification, if the individual identifies as one of the ethnic and racial categories recognized for minority-owned businesses for the purposes of State certification or identifies as a woman. The ethnic and racial categories in the State business certification statute are “Black, Hispanic, Portuguese, Asian-American, American Indian or Alaskan natives.

FUNDING DISBURSEMENTS

The full award will be disbursed quarterly (subject to milestones) to grantees, over two years immediately following award

Minimum disbursement requirements:

  • Certified organizational chart demonstrating at least three entrepreneurs are managing the business
  • Quarterly management-prepared financial statements
  • Annual accountant-prepared financial statements
  • Verification of gross income tax withholding (for example, NJ WR-30)
  • Certification that at-least three entrepreneurs are managing the business
  • Mentorship attendance record, evidenced by signed program instructor/advisor form(s)
  • Current Business address

FEES

Application Fee: $250

Assembly Bill No. 5939 revises various provisions of the “New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020,” P.L.2020, c.156 (C.34:1B-269 et al.) and establishes the “New Jersey Innovation Fellows Program” within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA).

CLICK HERE FOR ASSEMBLY BILL No. 5939