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Finding themselves in different company Universities say public, private must partner in changing landscape

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NJIT President Joel Bloom says partnerships are critical to a modern university, particularly as it relates to assisting in research and startup companies. They are 'how the modern university works,' he says.
NJIT President Joel Bloom says partnerships are critical to a modern university, particularly as it relates to assisting in research and startup companies. They are 'how the modern university works,' he says. - ()

According to Joel Bloom, president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, public-private partnerships are just “how the modern university works.”

NJIT is partnering with private business to get construction projects done, to give entrepreneurs a steady place to start their own empires and to deliver innovative research that can be applied and commercialized.

"Public-private partnerships is a pretty broad topic," Bloom said. "We've got them in real estate development, the delivery of instruction … and we've got them in research as well as startup companies."

Recognizing the need to advance the partnerships already created, as well as forge new deals between industry and education, a fourth arm has been added to Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno's Partnership for Action: Rochelle Hendricks, secretary of higher education.

Hendricks said joining the state's well-known business recruitment and retention arm will allow her to be on the front lines of engaging with industry.

"Formalizing that reinforces not only the level of commitment, but allows us to coordinate" with Choose New Jersey, the Economic Development Authority and the Business Action Center, Hendricks said. "Whatever those needs are, we can now do it in a much more proactive and aggressive manner, which will put us in a position to be highly competitive."

Hendricks wants to put forward the types of programs that NJIT has created to businesses looking to expand in New Jersey.

The Procurement Technical Assistance Center at NJIT has served as an intermediary between the federal government and New Jersey businesses since 1986. Since then, the center has assisted in bringing nearly $1 billion in federal contracts into the state.

"What we are responsible for doing is knowing what the needs are for the Department of the Defense and the armed services, and identifying military-based industry companies," Bloom said. "We broker the business and bring the contracts from the federal government to the defense company."

NJIT's researchers have also developed products that have been commercialized, like professor Rajesh Davé's taste-masking technology. Catalent Pharma Solutions, in the Somerset section of Franklin, funded Davé's research, and in October, the two parties announced an agreement to transfer the technology to Catalent's factory.

"The products that are coming out of that partner- ship, these are long-term partnerships with long-term results, particularly in the area of drug delivery," Bloom said. As a result of the partnership, "you'll see faster and better drug-delivery mechanisms."

Both Bloom, who is on the newly established Council on Innovation, and Hendricks said the push for public-private partnerships will begin within the areas of strength for New Jersey.

NJIT was selected to host the advanced manufacturing talent network, one of several talent networks established around the state to improve work force skills, and identify gaps in supply and demand for workers.

"Companies need to move quickly to stay competitive, looking for talent, and they often say 'we can't find the talent,'" Bloom said. The talent network "brings companies from around New Jersey to the table, identifying their short-term and long-term talent needs. We then attempt, at both NJIT and (other institutions), to talk to them about the skills and knowledge and talent needed now, the talent needed going forward … and how to influence curriculum."

In addition to the talent networks, Hendricks said "green" businesses and the food distribution industry also are being targeted for recruitment, retention and retraining.

Bloom said he hopes Hendricks' addition to the Partnership for Action will free up more information on what companies around the state are working on, and how schools like NJIT could step up to help.

"To be competitive today … business and industry at times either co-locates or locates around major universities, and the reason they do that is because of the ecosystem," Bloom said.

"One of the things that strikes me is New Jersey has an extraordinary set of institutions. There's world-class research going on by world-class researchers. But it's often a best-kept secret," Hendricks said. "How do we help facilitate getting that message out? Identify what's going on, coordinate that and broadcast it. That will do a lot to not only attract new business and industry, but help retain the ones we already have."

E-mail to: melindac@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @mcaliendo33

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