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NEW JERSEY INNOVATION FELLOWS PROGRAM


Now accepting applications through Monday, May 15, 2023 at 5PM. Please direct any questions to NJInnovationFellows@njeda.com.

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

The Innovation Fellows program, with its $10 million legislative appropriation, 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.

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)

ELIGIBILITY

The “Applicant” is the team of entrepreneurs applying for the fellowship.

Applicant Requirements:

  • Consist of a team of no less than three individuals
  • 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
  • The venture or proposed business must be led by a team of at-least three (3), full-time entrepreneurs
  • The entrepreneur leadership team must have majority equity interest (>50%) in the applicant
  • At least half of the entrepreneur leadership must certify as “first-time entrepreneurs”
  • Entrepreneur leadership must commit to working at the business 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 to receive income from award of the Fellows Program must have paid gross-income tax to New Jersey within 60 days leading up to application
  • 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
  • Businesses 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

FIRST-TIME ENTREPRENEUR PARTICIPATION

  • At least 50% of the Approved Business leadership must be “first-time entrepreneurs”
  • 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
  • A first-time entrepreneur 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 or has received third-party fundings
  • Third-party funding includes professional Angel investment, institutional Venture (VC), or Private Equity (PE) capital

TARGETED INDUSTRIES

  • 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)

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