NJ considers $3 million initiative to spark innovation

 Senator Thomas H. Kean Jr. R-Union (Rich Schultz/AP Photo)

Senator Thomas H. Kean Jr. R-Union (Rich Schultz/AP Photo)

The home state of Thomas Edison wants to lure more 21st century science and technology innovators.

A bill moving through the New Jersey Legislature creates a fellowship program that would award 20 grants worth an estimated $150,000 each to researchers in a range of fields.

“We need to make sure that the innovators, small and large alike, understand and know that we can recruit the best and the brightest, and have them stay here and afford to live here,” said Senate Republican leader Tom Kean Jr., a co-sponsor of the measure.

The plan builds on New Jersey’s history of breakthroughs, from the Band-Aid and condensed soup, to light bulbs and digital processor chips, said Kean, R-Union.

Money for the initiative will be redirected from the Workforce Development Partnership Fund, which is financed by payroll taxes.

According to Kean, the New Jersey Innovation and Research Fellowship Program is about “selling New Jersey as a beacon of great jobs and great opportunities for families, and it is a great way to attract great businesses.”

The Garden State needs to consider jobs initiatives at all levels of government if it is going to compete with tech hubs including Silicon Valley, North Carolina’s “Research Triangle” and Boston, he said.

The bill is likely to come up for a vote in the State Senate by Christmas.

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