A just-released report finds New Jersey could and should be doing more to improve its innovation economy.

Nicole Sandelier, the director of Economic Policy Research for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said the report reviews steps that can be taken to create an innovation ecosystem.

“We ultimately landed on 12 indicators that fall within three categories: capital, talent and business — and we use these 12 indicators to understand how New Jersey fares compared to our regional competitors,” she said.

The report finds Massachusetts and New York remain the regional leaders in innovation, while New Jersey is ranked 4th.

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She said the report finds New Jersey’s innovation ecosystem is especially challenged by “the net migration of first-time college students, where we actually have the largest net loss of students when you compare those who are coming into the state versus those who are leaving the state.”

The report notes in the fall of 2018, the state had a net loss of 28,259 students.

Sandelier said the other big problem is the state’s business tax climate.

“For the last 10 or so years ,New Jersey has ranked either 49th or 50th in the nation in our business tax climate,” she said. “Again in 2020, New Jersey ranked 50th, or worst in the nation.”

On the plus side, she said the report also finds New Jersey has some key assets, including being situated between New York and Philadelphia.

“We also have high-quality education ... and we also have a highly educated workforce,” she said.

To improve the Garden State’s innovation ecosystem and attract and retain business, she said a number of steps can be taken:

Modify the research and development tax credit.

Increase funding to the New Jersey Commission of Science, Innovation and Technology

Form private-public partnerships with venture capital funds to reduce investment risk.

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