Maternal, infant health grant program accepting applications Leave a comment

The New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation, and Technology (CSIT) recently opened applications for its $750,000 Maternal and Infant R&D Seed Grant Program. The initiative, made possible by a partnership between CSIT and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, is offering 10 grants of up to $75,000 each to help New Jersey-based, early-stage innovation companies to accelerate the development of technologies, products and services that support pregnant women and new mothers.

The effort builds on the Nurture NJ Strategic Plan, which is championed by First Lady Tammy Murphy along with the governor, to make New Jersey the safest place in America to deliver a baby, while specifically focusing on ending racial disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes. Nuture NJ was launched in 2019 by the Murphys as a comprehensive, whole-of-government effort to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity and ensure equitable care among women and children of all races and ethnicities in New Jersey.

“Investing in research and new technologies strengthens our families by ensuring the health and safety of our mothers and their babies. I’m thrilled the Maternal and Infant Health R&D Seed Grant Program will advance our work to end racial disparities by funding New Jersey companies committed to supporting maternal and infant health through innovation,” the First Lady said.

 

First Lady Tammy Murphy launches Nurture NJ, a maternal and infant health awareness campaign, on Jan. 23, 2019 at Cooper University Hospital in Camden. – EDWIN J. TORRES/GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

 

“It aligns with the overall Nurture NJ initiative by providing seed grants to early-stage innovative companies who are working on developing product, service capabilities that are addressing maternal and infant health care challenges,” CSIT executive director Judith Sheft told NJBIZ.

Sheft stressed that the ideas can range from companies developing an app to help pregnant women make sure they understand all their medication requirements to a software solution to a new type of bottle or medical device for a parent to use in terms of helping their children.

Judith Sheft, executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation, and Technology

Sheft

“So, it’s kind of that whole range of things to help pregnant people during the time that they’re pregnant through the one-year post-birth,” said Sheft.

The program will support the investments in R&D and technologies supporting this initiative in targeted sectors, including life sciences, technology, and non-retail food and beverage.

Among the criteria for eligible applicants, they must be authorized and in good standing to conduct business in New Jersey, must have $1 million or less in 2021 calendar year sales revenue, and must have 25 or fewer full-time equivalent workers. Sheft emphasized that the applicants must be a real company to be eligible for the grants.

The application period opened July 1 and closes Aug. 26 at 5 p.m.

CSIT signed an agreement in May with the NJEDA for the agency to dedicate $250,000 from the Economic Recovery Fund toward this program with the Commission providing the remainder of the funding from its current budget.

The grant funding can be used to maintain R&D activities and cover general operating costs. The rules prohibit the funding from being used for direct counseling and clinical service projects, manufacturing of products for sale or commercial use, real estate rental expenses, patient clinical trial expenses, or construction costs.

Sheft said that while the grants will not be awarded until the first quarter of 2023, the review and selection process will take place during the fall. She stressed that all applications will be reviewed and receive fair consideration to be selected.

“And we look at things like, ‘what is your innovation,’” said Sheft. “So, it’s important for companies to be able to talk in their application about what is their innovation. How is it different from other things? Talk about the team and the project, their go-to market strategy, community engagement. What’s their implementation plan?”

“And we do give out bonus points for businesses that are New Jersey minority-owned certified businesses, women-owned certified businesses, veteran-owned certified businesses, as well as those located in Opportunity Zone-eligible census tracts or Government Restricted Municipalities,” Sheft added.

The program is modeled after CSIT and NJEDA’s successful Clean Tech Seed Grant and Catalyst Seed R&D Grant Programs.

“They have been oversubscribed by a factor, sometimes two to as many as six times the number of applicants as we’ve got award dollars available,” said Sheft. “So, there’s a real demand from early-stage R&D companies in New Jersey for this kind of support.”

Sheft said beyond such grant programs, officials are also trying to support these companies by making them aware and connecting them with other resources, including at the federal level. “Many of these kinds of projects, certainly on infant and maternal health, could also easily be applicable for getting federal dollars to add on top of the money that they could get from the Commission,” said Sheft. “So, we try to make sure that our early-stage companies know about the wealth of resources available to help them move their innovations forward.”

The panel is trying to encourage these innovators and entrepreneurs to think outside the box or even adapt a certain idea or technology to possibly create a solution in this sector. “We’re really encouraging people who might not have necessarily thought about this program to think about how something that they might be doing could be directed toward infant and maternal health,” Sheft explained. “Could you also be doing a version of your product for pregnant people, or new parents? And how might you be able to take something that you’re doing and target it in that direction?”

Eligible applicants can propose a project of up to one year in duration and with a maximum budget of $75,000. The grants will be awarded on a competitive basis with funds going to the highest scoring applicants provided the minimum score is met.

Each approved grant will be valid for a period of 12 months. Any unused approved grant amounts will be cancelled after the 12-month period and returned to the program budget for future use.

In addition to furthering the Nurture NJ initiative, this program continues the efforts by the Murphy Administration to grow the state’s innovation ecosystem, which NJBIZ extensively detailed last month.

“We are really delighted to be partnering with the EDA and the First Lady’s Office on this important initiative,” Sheft said. “This is a pilot program. And we’re just really hopeful that we’re going to see a lot of great applications to help racial disparities around the birthing activities in New Jersey.”

The application is available at www.njeda.com/maternal-and-infant-health-grant.



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