A plan is in the pipeline to help smaller start-up companies in New Jersey along with businesses that incubate and accelerate developing products.

The state Senate Economic Growth Committee green-lighted a measure that would provide financial assistance and other support for these types of companies in the fields of clean energy or environmental technology, life sciences, biotechnology and medical device technology, advanced materials, engineering and manufacturing; supply chain, transportation and logistics; advanced computing and digital technology, defense and homeland security, and food and agriculture.

In order to qualify, the business incubator or accelerator would have to be located within an “urban transit hub” or within a mile of a university or research hospital.

The program, to be administered through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, would also encourage public-private partnership between smaller companies and universities.

Financial assistance would amount to 20 percent of the funding provided by a research institution, up to $200,000.

The plan has the strong backing of many Jersey business groups.

Michele Siekerka, the president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, says this kind an approach is an important step forward.

“Innovation and technology is where it’s at in terms of job creation as we sit here today in 2018. This is all about jobs for tomorrow," she said.

Siekerka said it makes sense to offer help to startups, business incubators and accelerators that are in close physical proximity to research institutions because teamwork is essential.

“Partnering with that institution will help bring that product to market in a more reasonable and economical fashion,” she said.

“You hear every day how the next great idea came out of someone’s garage or basement. Now they take it into the incubator or accelerator, they get the real resources they need in order to take that product to market," she said. “It happens every day, it should be happening more here in New Jersey."

California currently has 375 business incubators and accelerators and New York has 179 of them. New Jersey has 15.

“New Jersey lags in terms of having the physical structure around incubators and accelerators," she said. "But this is our opportunity to play catch-up and we can certainly do that.”

A report last year by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company found New Jersey could do a better job of growing and expanding the state economy by supporting startups, rather than larger, more established businesses.

During his two terms, Gov. Chris Christie favored giving established businesses large tax breaks to encourage economic development instead of supporting smaller firms trying to establish a business foothold.

During his run for governor, Phil Murphy pledged to support business innovation and high-tech development and he’s also voiced specific support for business incubators.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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