New Jersey leaders in business, education and politics discussed the state’s future in mobile communications Wednesday at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski presented the New Jersey Apps Challenge for students, faculty and recent alumni from Stevens, Rutgers University and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“The apps challenge will showcase the next generation of New Jersey innovators and inspire new ideas,” said Lautenberg, who co-founded the electronic services company ADP.
He is asking for original, market-ready apps for mobile phones by Dec. 31. The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges based on the overall utility and potential commercial success.
The grand prize is dinner with Dennis Crowley, the co-founder and CEO of Foursquare, to pitch the winning idea. Top contenders from each university will receive lunch with their university’s president.
The challenge is meant to draw attention to a growing “apps economy,” a term used by many of the participants in the discussion meaning jobs and business associated with creating tools and services for mobile devices.
Since the introduction of iPhone in 2007, about 500,000 related jobs were created and in 2011, the apps economy generated almost $20 billion in revenue, according to Dr. Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute, a democratic think tank.
“It’s far more than just apps,” said Mandel. “It’s about new ways that businesses can communicate, plan, act, buy, work, and enjoy. It’s really about a whole new way of living.”
And New Jersey could be the center of it.
“New Jersey has all the skills and resources to become one of the stars of the app economy,” said Mandel.
Lautenberg also announced the a bill to create high tech jobs and train students in how to grow their ideas into successful products and businesses called the America Innovates Act, which he will present to the Senate next week.
“In order to compete in the world economy,” said Lautenberg, “our country needs to maintain its technological edge.” The bill would also create the American Innovation Bank to support research and product development at universities and other institutions.
FCC Chairman Genachowski said he supports the legislation. “It’s an important bill that recognizes that to succeed, we need to support growth, technological innovation, and business innovation,” he said. He added that a big part of the answer for the future would come from young innovators and entrepreneurs.
Dr. Nariman Farvardin, the president of Stevens, said the answer also lies in creating ecosystems to foster new ventures and create jobs. “These sort of hubs help to build a support network,” he said. He added that New Jersey could build one. “We would like to see Hoboken and the surrounding region become a kind of technology nexus,” he said.
Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, who was part of the closed round table discussion held after the public portion, said she fully supports that idea. “We want to play as large a role as possible,” she said. “We want to work with the community to create the culture to make this a tech hub and create that ecosystem and physically create the space. We got all the right ingredients.” She added that plans for a local tech and arts event are already underway.