In July 2021, NJEDA approved policy guidance for utilizing recently appropriated funds to undertake development of or investment in strategic innovation centers.

The aim of funding strategic innovation centers is to accelerate economic recovery and drive the long-term growth of the State’s innovation economy.


Strategic Innovation Centers are facilities that either directly support research and development (R&D), innovation, or entrepreneurship or are aimed at solving specific problems in new and innovative ways through a combination of services such as mentorship, networking opportunities, hands-on training, business support services, education opportunities, and/or access to testing, fabrication, or manufacturing facilities and equipment.

Strategic Innovation Centers can take many forms such as: accelerators, incubators, research centers, innovative service delivery centers, or multi-tenant innovation clusters.   Most have a common goal of being a physical location that brings people together to advance innovation.  They are often focused on a specific industry or around solving a specific problem.  They build a community cluster of like-minded individuals that collaborate on solving a common problem or advancing a common goal.   The ability to coalesce entrepreneurs and innovators at a central location often leads to a quicker time to market and greater success. 


All proposed strategic innovation centers must fit into the following Economic Recovery Fund targeted industries or demonstrate that it meaningfully support increasing diversity and inclusion within the State’s entrepreneurial economy:

  • Advanced transportation and logistics,
  • Advanced manufacturing,
  • Aviation,
  • Autonomous vehicle and zero-emission vehicle research or development,
  • Clean energy,
  • Life sciences,
  • Hemp processing,
  • Information and high technology,
  • Finance and insurance,
  • Professional services,
  • Film and digital media,
  • Non-retail food and beverage businesses, and
  • Other innovative industries that disrupt current technologies or business models.


Per the Economic Recovery Fund (ERF) statute (N.J.S.A. 34:1B-7.14), determinations of projects to be financed from ERF require consideration of the following factors:

  • The economic feasibility of the project;
  • The degree to which the project will advance Statewide and regional strategies and objectives;
  • The degree to which the project maximizes the leveraging of other sources of funds; and
  • The degree to which the project promotes economic development, the creation or retention of jobs, and the stimulation of private sector investment and expansion.

Additional evaluation criteria when considering potential investments in strategic innovation centers include:

  • The degree to which the project advances Statewide and/or regional strategies and objectives.
  • The location of the project, where, at a minimum, the Strategic Innovation Center must be located in New Jersey.
  • The degree to which the projects uniquely positions New Jersey to be a regional or national leader in one of the ERF targeted industries.
  • Qualifications and experience of the entities that will be involved developing and operating the project, where partners with demonstrable experience executing similar projects in terms of approach or scale and size are significant factors for consideration.
  • The level of support and quality of commitments from other entities, such as private sector corporations, academic partners, local non-profits, local government entities, etc.
  • The project’s development and operational readiness, where opportunities that can deliver an economic benefit quickly or are ready to be developed will be considered more highly.
  • The economic feasibility of the project, such as:
    • Whether the project’s business model is realistic and sustainable, with a sustainable model being one that will minimal further State assistance
    • Whether the project will be competitive given other existing innovation centers, companies and organizations in the locality, state, or region
    • Whether the quantity of financial support requested from the Authority is both reasonable for the scale of potential impact and adequate to achieve the projected outcomes
  • The degree to which the project maximizes the leveraging of other sources of funding
  • The degree to which the project promotes economic development, the creation or retention of jobs, and the stimulation of private sector investment and expansion.
  • The degree to which the project will assist New Jersey-based businesses and entrepreneurs.
  • The degree to which the project supports the State’s ambition to strengthen its position as the most diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem in the country, for example by providing opportunities to woman-, minority-, or veteran-owned business.
  • The degree to which the project will engage with the local community and existing industries.
  • The degree to which the project support development in historically underserved communities.
  • The anticipated return of investment for NJEDA for the given investment structure.
  • Any inter-state or inter-regional competitive dynamics of the project.