RI-CIE future uncertain as Brown seeks new partners

ENTREPRENEURS listen to George Simmons, of Derby Management Consultants in Boston, describe how to write a business plan at the Rhode Island Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
Posted 6/6/12

(Updated, 3 p.m.)

PROVIDENCE – The future of the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is in question, as its staff has been laid off while Brown University, its main funding source, seeks new partners.

“We are in transition,” Marisa Quinn, vice president of public affairs and university relations, told Providence Business News on Wednesday. “It’s time to get a fresh look at the resources to support entrepreneurship as an overall [economic-development] plan. We are thinking about infrastructure and staffing to make sure we are as effective and efficient as possible.”

Brendan McNally, who has been executive director at the center, told PBN Wednesday that he and Leigh Kendall, program manager, will be out of jobs on June 30. Nathan Rose, the center’s administrative coordinator, previously accepted a job within Brown’s technology venture office.

McNally worked in the president’s office for planning at Brown for five years before joining RI-CIE.

“I’ve known all along that [a program like this] is a challenge and I understand these transitions take place,” McNally said. “It’s been a lot of fun and a great opportunity.”

RI-CIE started in 2009 in financial partnership with, among others, the R.I. Economic Development Corporation. Brown footed, Quinn said, between 75 percent and 80 percent of center funding in staffing, space and programming.

While this three-year period, said Clyde Briant, vice president of research, has been a successful “pilot” program, Brown feels it’s time to broaden the center’s scope and actively seek other partnerships.

When asked if the university wants to pull or downplay it’s financial contributions there, Quinn said that Brown “will continue to partner and work with others to maximize” the center’s success.

Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, in a May 17 letter to House Committee on Finance Chairman Helio Melo, D-East Providence, suggested designating a portion of lottery winnings and legal settlement funds to the center but the finance committee did not include center funding in its budget recommendations.

“The EDC has been working with RI-ICE partners and government partners on needs and resources to take RI-CIE to the next level,” said EDC spokesperson Judy Chong. “We’ve been a partner and we’ve been talking about how we can broaden our partnership to deepen involvement in the community.”

Quinn said that as of June 30 the center, at One Davol Square, will no longer operate as it had but that its incubator space will continue to be available and usable.

“The incubator will stay for the time being,” Quinn said. “Other parts will not be there. We’re freeing up space for a growing start up business.”

RI-CIE lists the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council and the Slater Technology Fund as its other financial partners.

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