NJIT Launches New Jersey Innovation Institute

By Christie Duffy

It’s a spin-off from NJIT — a non-profit research group that’s aimed at restoring New Jersey to its former glory as a hotspot for high-tech research and development.

“Most of the modern industries that we enjoy were invented, were grown right here in New Jersey. Electric power and power generation and lighting, the telecomm industry, radio, broadcast television, it was born here in New Jersey. Edison actually created an industrial R&D lab about five blocks away when his first factory opened in the shadow of what is now the Prudential Center,” said New Jersey Innovation Institute President Donald Sebastian.

Five corporations pooled resources with NJIT to get the new institute off the ground. Its mission: to help New Jersey companies not just keep up with constantly evolving technology, but to spearhead breakthroughs in five areas — homeland security and defense, financial services, civil infrastructure, health care and bio-pharmaceuticals.

“For example, we’ve developed a fuel cell that works on the blood, on the sugar dissolved in your bloodstream. So now you can imagine empowering a wide variety of sensors, even robotics, prosthetics, just by what you eat. You are what you eat. You can power a pacemaker now without a battery, by using those fuel cells. You never have to take it out and replace it,” Sebastian said.

The non-profit institute will be collaborating with Panasonic — one of the five charter corporations — and other private companies to focus on emerging technologies.

“Our nation right now ranks eighth in the world. We have fallen to eighth in combined public and private R&D spending. In this era where technological advancements is essential to societal growth, equality and opportunity reality alarming,” said Sen. Cory Booker.

Another powerful resource: NJIT’s faculty — 300 experts and its students building an even larger technological talent pool.

“We’re not training kids with these kinds of skills so we have so many engineering and technology jobs that go unanswered, because kids don’t major in these things. How do we make it attractive and interesting for them?” asked Panasonic North America Chairman and CEO Joseph M. Taylor.

Panasonic already had five to six special projects they want to start on here right away, placing their employees alongside the students and professors of this new institute.