UNION, NJ — The Institute for Life Science Entrepreneurship’s mission in part is to train the next generations of entrepreneurs, and officials belief that at a recent grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority will aid that goal. The nonprofit institute housed at Kean University has plans to use the $100,000 planning grant to expand its incubator, a facility that currently supports eight startup life science businesses.
ILSE provides physical space, shared equipment and experienced support to these companies, which range from one-person operations to larger businesses. It intends to add about 20,000 square feet to augment the current 8,000 square feet at Kean.
According to ILSE President Thomas Richardson, the grant from the state government will not only benefit Kean students and faculty, but the township as well.
“Our hope is that we can get 30 or so companies and upwards of 100 employees working in Union, increasing the density of life science work and entrepreneurship in the area,” he said in a phone interview on Nov. 29.
An exact site for the extended incubator has yet to be determined, but Richardson said it will be in close proximity to the existing facility. He also has hopes that the expansion will help “solidify the township in the state’s bio-pharma ecosystem.”
In a recent press release ILSE Chief Executive Officer Keith Bostian said, “Ultimately, an expanded incubator will allow ILSE to increase the density of life science innovation and job creation in Union and on Kean’s campus, and promote entrepreneurial dynamism and student success.” Bostian is also dean of Kean’s New Jersey Center for Science, Technology and Mathematics.
Along with the physical development, ILSE will implement an internship program through the university to help students acquire real-life experience.
“Kean students will have an expanded career ladder through the incubator by working with the companies that would come into it once it’s expanded,” he added.
Current businesses involved include OliPass, a biotech company, and Prokaryotics, an antibacterial discovery organization. However, Richardson envisions that the extended incubator will also feature businesses that are outside the STEM fields.
“There are a lot of different internships that we can consider and are discussing now,” he said. “They will not just be STEM related. We have hopes that it will include other areas, such as communications and business, so that students have the opportunity to help startup companies in a variety of different ways.”
While there have been previous discussions of creating an internship program, the grant finally gives the institute the resources to develop and execute a plan, and “is really helping us with a critical bottleneck in our planning process,” Richardson said.
ILSE obtained the grant in partnership with the township and university through an innovation challenge from the NJEDA.
The organization noticed that New Jersey and its cities have limited access to incubators and other supportive real estate
components that foster the growth and development of startup ecosystems, according to the innovation challenge overview.
After the NJEDA sent out a request for proposal in July, the ILSE submitted a plan detailing how the grant would augment its current activities.
“The Murphy administration is really refocusing efforts onto New Jersey’s innovation economy,” Richardson said. “We’ve been looking to expand for some time now and this challenge presented us with that opportunity.”
Union was one of nine municipalities and counties that received the NJEDA grant. The other eight were: Atlantic City, Bridgeton, New Brunswick and Trenton, and Atlantic, Camden, Monmouth and Passaic counties.