Raimondo, URI announce new round of Innovation Campus funding

PROVIDENCE – Gov. Gina M. Raimondo and University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley on Thursday announced a second round “RI Innovation Campus” funding aimed at commercializing academic research at URI to create new products, businesses, and jobs.

The two new innovation campus projects are expected to create hundreds of jobs in “rapidly-growing” industries including advanced material manufacturing and gene therapy.

The new projects are called the “401 Tech Bridge,” or the Rhode Island Materials Innovation Center, focusing on innovation in the fields of advanced textiles and composites; and the Rhode Island Cell Therapy Training Institute, focusing on accelerating immune-oncology innovation within the state and drawing biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies here.

The two new initiatives are expected to take place in South Kingstown, Portsmouth, and Providence. The program is supported by a bond approved by Rhode Island voters in November 2016.

- Advertisement -

Private investment in the new initiatives is expected to be more than $12 million, or five times the state’s pledged investment into the program. Raimondo and Dooley announced the first round of innovation campus projects at URI in December.

With Thursday’s announcement, $14.4 million of the $20 million bond approved by voters to create innovation campuses affiliated with URI has been allocated, officials said. The next step in the process involves negotiating agreements between R.I. Commerce Corp., the state’s economic development agency, URI, and others involved in the two new initiatives.

“Innovation isn’t a relic of Rhode Island’s past, it is the key to our future,” the governor said in Thursday’s announcement. “The projects we announced today as part of our second round of Innovation Campus funding will create jobs, foster creativity and development in key sectors, and stimulate our economy.”

Dooley said: “Innovation Campuses provide the facilities and programs necessary to foster scientific collaboration, educational advancements, and technical training to serve the residents of Rhode Island and innovate industries to support growth and prosperity in our economy.”

The Rhode Island Materials Innovation Center [401 Tech Bridge]

URI will partner with Polaris MEP, Toray Plastics (America) Inc., Composites One, Hope Global, the International Yacht Restoration School of Technology and Trades, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, the Composites Alliance of RI, the Rhode Island Textile Innovation Network, the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association, and DESIGNxRI.

The partners will be able to work in the 401 Tech Bridge center with entities such as the U.S. Navy or the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority to explore textile and composite projects for rapid development and deployment.

The Tech Bridge is projected to create hundreds of jobs over its first 10 years of operation.

Polaris MEP will be awarded $1 million from the “Innovation Campus” bond and will receive and invest more than $5 million in matching funds from other sources including the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Rhode Island Cell Therapy Training Institute

URI will partner with Roger Williams Medical Center to form the Rhode Island Cell Therapy Training Institute within the Rhode Island CAR-T Design and Development Center to foster accelerated, critically needed immunotherapy-related manufacturing in coordination with critical clinical studies.

The state portion of the funding for the new institute totals $1.4 million. Roger Williams Medical Center and its corporate parent, CharterCARE Health Partners, will provide at least $7 million of matching contributions over the life of the project. There also will be a jointly managed URI/RWMC research program conducted within the Rhode Island CAR-T Design and Development Center and on the URI campus.

An immunotherapy nursing program will be established within the URI College of Nursing, along with a cell manufacturing technician training program at URI.

The institute will employ 22 full-time employees over the course of the project and four full-time positions at URI will be added during the project period.

“These two projects capitalize on one of Rhode Island’s greatest strengths – our tremendous capacity for academic research and development to promote job growth in new and innovative industries,” state Sen. President Dominick J. Ruggerio said in the announcement.

“These exciting projects are attracting private investment and, in the future, will turn research into commercial activity and produce new high-tech and high-paying jobs,” added state Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@PBN.com.