Nokia to Open New 360,000 Sq. Ft. Facility in New Brunswick by 2028, Eyeing “The Next 100 Years” Of Its Historic Bell Labs Research Arm

Plans for H-2, the second phase of the New Jersey Health + Life Science Exchange in downtown New Brunswick, will include 360,000 square feet of build-to-suit lab and office space at the mixed-use campus. It would rise alongside a first phase that’s now under construction and slated to include a facility known as the New Jersey Innovation HUB, a new home for the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a center for what’s known as translational research.

Nokia to Open New 360,000 Sq. Ft. Facility in New Brunswick by 2028, Eyeing “The Next 100 Years” Of Its Historic Bell Labs Research Arm

December 12, 2023 | Re-NJ | by Joshua Burd

Nokia Bell Labs will break ground in 2025 on its new 360,000-square-foot facility in downtown New Brunswick, executives said Monday, as they hailed a project that will allow it to remain at the forefront of innovation while boosting its appeal for the state’s future talent pool.

The iconic technology company joined a parade of public officials, including Gov. Phil Murphy, as it unveiled its vision for a built-to-suit new research and office tower that will be built by a partnership of New Brunswick Development Corp. and SJP Properties. Plans call for Nokia Bell Labs to occupy the space by 2028, when it will relocate from its acclaimed campus in the Murray Hill section of Berkeley Heights to continue its work in disruptive technologies in areas such as quantum, photonics, optical research, 6G, artificial intelligence and industrial automation.

The facility will be the latest addition to the sweeping Health + Life Science Exchange or HELIX campus that’s now rising just south of Albany Street under a master plan by New Brunswick Development Corp., or Devco, at a site that provides access to the state’s deep talent pool and is steps from Rutgers University and NJ Transit.

“We call ourselves the innovation state,” Gov. Phil Murphy said during an event at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. “Yet there are no two words that speak better to that than Bell Labs. So that makes today incredibly gratifying.”

Murphy, who has focused on growing companies such as Nokia Bell Labs, thanked the company while noting that its search had been ongoing since at least 2018. That process was both transparent and exhaustive, he said.

“They looked everywhere,” Murphy said. “This is not just a question of relocating in the state of New Jersey. They looked around every corner of the United States of America and probably beyond that, and after having assessed all of their alternatives, they landed right here in New Brunswick in the great state of New Jersey. And I think that’s a huge testament, not just to their process, but also what we have to offer.”

For Nokia Bell Labs, the site will be the latest chapter in a legacy that includes the development of the transistor, one of 10 breakthroughs by researchers that earned Nobel Prizes during nearly a century in Murray Hill.

“Our Murray Hill campus has been home to iconic Nokia Bell Labs innovation for over 80 years,” said Nishant Batra, chief strategy and technology officer at Nokia. “As we look toward the future of Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs in the region, we will take with us all that makes us exceptional — our vision, brainpower, culture of disruptive innovation and technical prowess — and marry that legacy with a modern research and development facility that is built to our needs. Ultimately, we want a facility that feels right for the next 100 years of Nokia Bell Labs.”

Murphy and company executives acknowledged the role of key players involved in the process, including Tim Sullivan, CEO of the state Economic Development Authority. They also cited the role of development partners such as Devco and SJP Properties, which recently announced the potential for a new ground-up office and lab facility at the HELIX campus.

“This is big,” said Chris Paladino, Devco’s president and CEO of HELIX NJ. “It simultaneously does multiple things. It reinforces the longstanding relationship between New Jersey and Nokia Bell Labs. It asserts and expands New Jersey’s leadership position in the global innovation economy. It opens the doors to powerful new collaborations, all while initiating a new generation of discovery.”

Nokia Bell Labs will occupy the building under a long-term lease agreement. JLL’s Dan Loughlin, Blake Goodman, Jason Benson, Dan Spero and Peter Ladas represented ownership in the deal.

“Today, the emphasis is on being able to recruit, being able to get people back to work,” said Steve Pozcyki, CEO of SJP Properties, citing the firm’s long history of build-to-suits in New Jersey and its most recent projects with the likes of Deloitte LLP, Valley Bank and Sanofi. With Nokia Bell Labs, he said, it was critical to both “get them confident on this location” and to “understand what they’re thinking about and have that evolve into a state-of-the-art building that exceeds their goals.”

“We’re doing a lot in the life science and technology sector because that’s what the market is, so it will be the state-of-the-art building for research and development and electronic labs in the country, if not the world,” Pozycki added. “We’ve looked worldwide and the vendors that are working with us to be able to deliver what they’re looking for are recruited globally and have worked on things that are similar to this.”

The announcement comes as construction continues on the HELIX’s first phase, H-1, which will comprise a 12-story, 574,000-square-foot building and include a multiuse facility known as the New Jersey Innovation HUB, the new home of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a Rutgers translational research facility with labs to advance the work of 80 research teams focused on improving individual and public health. The project has advanced with the help of state officials and agencies such as the EDA, which will undoubtedly be critical as Nokia’s build-out begins.

“I’ve been doing this job for almost six years, and I don’t think there’s been a time when we pitched New Jersey when the phrase ‘Bell Labs’ doesn’t escape our lips as evidence of who we are, where we’ve been and where we’re going,” said Sullivan, the authority’s CEO. “And, now, that story is made even stronger.”

New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill added: “Nokia’s legacy of innovation and devotion to the development of cutting-edge technologies ensures a lasting impact on the global telecommunications landscape. Nokia Bell Labs’ commitment to New Brunswick as the home for their new research and development facility speaks volumes about the potential and promise our city holds. It is a testament to the collaborative spirit, innovation, and forward-thinking attitude that defines our community.

“This venture will not only bring economic opportunities to our city, but will also create a hub of creativity and expertise that will undoubtedly contribute to the continued growth and success of New Brunswick.”

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