Two Huge Announcements Set the Table for New Jersey’s Tech Scene Beyond 2024

  • Nokia Bell Labs announced that it was moving to New Brunswick from its historic home in Murray Hill, and setting up a venture studio to commercialize its products that “don’t meet the needs of its business units” at the time.
  • The State of New Jersey and Princeton University announced the establishment of an artificial intelligence hub at Princeton that will collaborate with New Jersey universities, industry leaders, startup companies and others.

The Bell Labs Announcement:

On December 11, attended the announcement by Nokia Bell Labs that it would join the Health & Life Science Exchange (HELIX) project in New Brunswick, which includes the construction of a 10-story purpose-built headquarters with plenty of lab space for R&D.

Bell Labs is currently the research arm of Nokia, but it’s also the historical home to scientists who brought the world many important discoveries — most notably the transistor, the UNIX operating system and the language C (as an arm of AT&T). The new building is expected to be completed by 2028 and the Murray Hill campus will be sold.

Despite our deep connections with the home of Bell Labs in Murray Hill, we are thrilled that Bell Labs has decided to stay in New Jersey, that it will continue to do innovative work here and that its alumni will lead new tech companies here. In fact, with its new building, Nokia Bell Labs is set up to collaborate with other innovators on the HELIX campus.

And the company is looking towards the future. Bell Labs will soon be establishing a “venture studio” in conjunction with VC firms Celesta Capital (San Francisco), Roadrunner Venture Studios (Albuquerque, N.M.) and America’s Frontier Fund (Arlington, Texas).  The idea is to form many technology companies using the innovations that continue to come out of Bell Labs, but that cannot be immediately used by Nokia.

After the announcement, Thierry Klein, president of Bell Labs Solutions Research, spoke to several journalists, pointing out that some of the technologies invented at Bell Labs go “into our established business units. But then sometimes the same technology has other applications. We’ve done research on technology that goes into optical networking, for example, but the same technology can be used for medical imaging. How do you [transfer] that? We have technology that may not completely fit strategically with the interest of the business unit at that time, but we see the potential for the technology. So how do we make sure that that technology doesn’t get stuck in a research lab?”

He continued, “I’m now in management. But I started my career as a researcher. And there’s nothing more frustrating than when you develop the technology, you validate it, you prove it, you believe it has a market potential. And you can’t make that connection. So, the collaboration with America’s Frontier Fund and Roadrunner Venture Studios is all about making sure we have the technology, and we have that connection to really capitalize on the technology.”

The Princeton AI Hub Announcement:

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber announced plans to create an artificial intelligence (AI) innovation hub for the state, in collaboration with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA).

“With today’s announcement, New Jersey — alongside Princeton University — is poised to shape the future of this revolutionary field and unleash a new century of game-changing discovery,” Murphy said. He described the planned AI hub as “a new home for the world’s boldest and brightest to pioneer breakthroughs for the betterment of humankind.”

Leveraging state funding and private sector partnerships, the initiative will advance New Jersey’s leadership in AI and catalyze innovation in AI technologies, drive job growth and economic development across the region, promote rapid and responsible development of the field and guide governments and public entities on AI implementation, according to a press release.

“With the establishment of this AI hub, we are not just anticipating the future, we are actively shaping it,”said Beth Noveck, chief innovation officer at the New Jersey State Office of Innovation. “This partnership is a testament to our belief that when we harness Princeton’s renowned brainpower and New Jersey’s innovative spirit, there’s no problem too complex, no challenge too great. Together, we embark on a journey where every problem encountered is a step closer to a solution.”

As reported in ROI-NJ, Eisgruber announced that Princeton and the State of New Jersey will cohost a conference on AI at Princeton on April 11, which will aim to bring together leaders from academia, industry and government to discuss the most pressing AI issues of the day. With Princeton at its center, it is possible that New Jersey’s AI hub will attract many of the best and the brightest in the field; and, hopefully, they will not flee to Silicon Valley. While there is much more competition from other states in the AI sector, perhaps the Princeton name will be the ticket to attracting new researchers and practitioners to the state, and to keeping the ones we already have.

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