Rutgers University and RWJ Barnabas Health on Thursday announced a partnership to form what they called New Jersey's largest academic health system in a bid to enhance clinical care, education, and research.

The deal is not a merger. Rutgers and RWJ Barnabas will remain separate corporations, and no assets will change hands, they said.

"Before, we had the largest health-care system in the state, and we had the breadth and firepower of a major research university, but they weren't interacting with one another," said Rutgers president Robert L. Barchi. "This really is the opportunity to bring those elements together."

One of Barchi's goals is to increase Rutgers' stature as a research institution by doubling its funding from the National Institutes of Health in the next few years from the current level of about $100 million.

"On the clinical-research size and the translational-research side, we need two things," Barchi said. We need outstanding faculty who are experienced in doing that kind of research. They expect to come into a system that looks and feels like an academic health system with the breadth and scope of what this new partnership has."

Executives said the prospect of the partnership had already enabled Rutgers to recruit Steven Libutti from the Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in New York to head the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Cancer Services of RWJBarnabas. "We could not have recruited somebody of that caliber without this partnership," said Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

The operations of RWJBarnabas, formed last year through the combination of Robert Wood Johnson Health Care Corp. and Barnabas Health Inc., has a dozen acute-care hospitals with 4,852 beds. Rutgers has two schools of medicine, a dental school, a school of pharmacy, and other health-care education institutions.

While the partnership with Rutgers did not happen in response to broader industry consolidation, it could change the competitive landscape, RWJBarnabas chief executive Barry H. Ostrowsky said.

"For a long time, folks have traveled from New Jersey to points far and wide in order to get what they considered to be top-notch health care based in an academic setting. I think this partnership will attract, and should attract, folks from New Jersey to stay at home and understand that they will be getting the very same kind of academic-based health-care services that they would get elsewhere."