Innovation Challenge

    The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) will be launching an Innovation Challenge, offering eligible communities an opportunity to compete for planning funds to catalyze the growth of innovation economies across the state.  The Innovation Challenge will launch as a pilot round of assistance of up to $100,000 per recipient, available to cities (or partnered municipalities) with populations of 25,000 or more, or regional/county partnerships with populations of 100,000 or more.

    The total pool of funding under the pilot round of the Innovation Challenge will be up to $500,000.  Applicants must be local or county governments or agencies representing populations of 25,000 or more. Regional partnerships are encouraged, and collectively must have a population of 100,000 or more. 

    Plans should include specific deliverables, clearly defining how the plan components support inclusive economic development and will create or enhance the local ecosystem, with a focus on several key areas including, but not limited to: 
    • Increasing opportunities to grow or expand clusters of innovation-driven companies;
    • Encouraging the growth and expansion of incubators and other innovation-supportive real estate spaces; 
    • Encouraging mixed-use, transit-oriented development; repurposing of vacant or underutilized land and buildings; 
    • Providing STEM training and connections to jobs and ladders of opportunity; 
    • Developing and attracting top talent and employers; 
    • Planning for supportive infrastructure such as bike lanes, open space and other public amenities common to innovation districts; and, 
    • Building a culture of entrepreneurialism.  

    Plans must identify how the innovation/s will meet the goals of the Innovation Challenge, and applicants will be required to commit to a 20 percent match through financial or in-kind resources, with preference given to applications that include additional funding commitments from an anchor institution or strategic partner. Applications must demonstrate a viable path to bringing ideas to implementation, including a collaborative stakeholder engagement process and strategy.  Applications will also be scored against the anticipated economic and social impact; an ability to track results; transferability; and existing staff capacity and management experience. 

    Innovation Challenge plans can be focused on innovation-centric real estate, infrastructure to support innovation, green energy projects, new media strategies, or STEM education and training initiatives.  Applicants are encouraged to be bold and think outside the box. 

    The EDA anticipates releasing the Request for Proposals/Qualifications in July. Continue to check this page (www.njeda.com/InnovationChallenge) for updates.