Gov. Raimondo, URI President Dooley announce first round of Innovation Campus projects

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BIG NEWS: URI President David M. Dooley speaks as he and Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the first round of RI Innovation Campus projects. URI photo by Michael Salerno Photography.

KINGSTON, R.I. — December 18, 2018 — Gov. Gina Raimondo today joined University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley to announce the first round of Rhode Island Innovation Campus projects, which will catalyze academic research into new commercial products and businesses. The three campuses are expected to create hundreds of jobs in rapidly growing advanced industries, including cybersecurity, data analytics and agricultural technology in Rhode Island.

The three transformative Innovation Campuses, expected to be located in Kingston and Providence, will be supported by a bond approved by voters in November 2016. Private investment in the three projects is expected to be more than $122 million, which is 10 times the state’s investment.

Today’s announcement allocates $12 million of the $20 million bond approved by voters to create Innovation Campuses affiliated with URI that will work to bridge the gap between world-class research at Rhode Island’s universities and high-tech jobs in advanced industries. A second round of funding from the bond is expected to be awarded in 2019.

The three recipients are:

  • URI and Arizona State University Innovation Hub. 
URI and ASU will collaborate on an innovation hub to be focused initially on cybersecurity, big data analytics and the Internet of Things. Joining ASU in this collaboration is Cisco Systems, Inc., which has successfully partnered with ASU on numerous programs and projects. 

The hub will have two locations at inception, one to be co-located at a central Innovation and Entrepreneurship space on the URI Kingston Campus in proximity to the students and faculty of URI; and the second to serve as an industry gateway and co-working and incubation/acceleration space in Providence.

This effort combines Arizona State University, a rapidly growing research university that has been ranked first for Innovation for the fourth year in a row by U.S. News and World Report, with the University of Rhode Island, which focuses on big thinking and educational opportunities that meet global challenges.

Together, the universities will explore and help shape the key emerging technological areas of cybersecurity, big data analytics and visualizations and the Internet of Things. 

Specifically, they will provide education and workforce development; research into cybersecurity, big data analytics and visualizations and the Internet of Things; commercialization and start-up resources and initiatives; community outreach and citizen science initiatives; and platforms and facilities to support the hub’s major efforts.

“We are excited to partner with the University of Rhode Island in this effort because we share a vision of the future, a future where universities play increasingly important roles on the national stage,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “This is part of our efforts to be a model for a new cohort of National Service Universities that provide critical social and economic benefit to our country with dedication to societal impact through the highest quality education and research.”

The total initial project investment for the University of Rhode Island and Arizona State University Innovation Hub is expected to be more than $11 million with the bond proceeds accounting for $5.5 million. Local corporate partners such as Fidelity have already expressed an interest in working with this venture. Investments are expected from additional corporate partners as the hub grows and additional focus areas are explored.

  • 

The Rhode Island “iHub.” The Rhode Island Innovation Hub or “iHub” will be established as a startup incubator and accelerator that will enable and catalyze collaborations among industry, start-ups, entrepreneurs, funders, and academic research entities. iHub was conceived through a partnership of URI, Brown University, IBM, and MassChallenge. iHub will be formed as an independent non-profit 501c3 to establish an innovation community with physical space powered by curated and proven cutting-edge acceleration programs from MassChallenge and IBM Alpha Zone, free of charge for pre-revenue and early stage startups.

iHub anticipates sponsoring joint education events between Brown’s Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship and the URI SPARC program. iHub will be located in the Providence Innovation and Design District. The total project investment in iHub is expected to be approximately $8.7 million with the bond proceeds accounting for $2.5 million.

“We embrace the opportunity to partner with Brown University, the University of Rhode Island, MassChallenge, and other stakeholders to co-cultivate the RI Innovation Hub as a place to connect, collaborate and innovate,” said Henry Hu, corporate development executive – M&A, Innovations and Investment for IBM. “A major element of the Hub is its accelerator. IBM is excited to create with the iHub team a best-in-class accelerator in Rhode Island. We can bring our know-how and demonstrated best practices from the successful IBM Alpha Zone accelerator in Israel, to support the creation and development of leading-edge start-ups. We are excited to be a major partner to create a dynamic innovation hub powered by IBM technology and knowledge that can spawn, build and test new innovative solutions for the digital economy, for the State of Rhode Island and for the world.”

“We are excited to move forward with the University of Rhode Island and other partners in launching iHub, which will create new opportunities for collaborative ventures among entrepreneurs, industry and university research teams,” said Brown University President Christina Paxson. “By convening world-class startup accelerators IBM Alpha Zone and MassChallenge under one roof, iHub will amplify the innovation and discovery that continues to incubate in the Jewelry District.

  • 

The Rhode Island Agricultural Innovation & Entrepreneurship Campus. 

URI, in partnership with RI Agricultural Technologies (a partnership made up of the Rhode Island Mushroom Company and American Ag Energy Inc.) will create the Rhode Island Agricultural Innovation & Entrepreneurship Campus in West Kingston. This project is anticipated to be situated on 50-plus acres adjacent to the URI Kingston Campus and also include more than 25 acres of greenhouses adjacent to a 15,000-plus square-foot Agriculture Innovation Center, which will be the epicenter for agricultural innovation, entrepreneurism, internships, and education. This project will secure Rhode Island’s position as the agricultural technology hub of the northeast. In addition to producing more than 10 percent of Rhode Island’s total vegetable needs, the project will contain advanced facilities for key committed partners Verinomics, a world-renowned genomics and computational biology company, and VoloAgri a vegetable seed company specialized in breeding for Open Field and Protected crops. The Agriculture Innovation Center will be programmed and managed by URI and will educate and train students for the cutting-edge agricultural products, processes and jobs of the future. The total project cost of the Rhode Island Agricultural Innovation & Entrepreneurship Campus is expected to be approximately $115 million with the innovation bond proceeds accounting for $4 million.

“We could not be more excited about this project,” said Michael Hallock chief executive officer of RI Ag Technologies. “It’s a big leap forward, for everybody involved. This partnership is just unprecedented. It brings together leaders from agricultural production, genomics, and research communities to create a cutting-edge facility that will launch New England into the forefront of 21st-century agriculture.”

The Rhode Island Executive Office of Commerce in partnership with URI received 16 responses to a request for proposals issued in December 2017. The RFP called for parties in academia and industry to come together to create a transformative Innovation Campus or campuses in Rhode Island that would turn academic research into new commercial products, businesses, and jobs. The three innovation campuses chosen have already expressed a strong interest in linking their activities and expertise together over time as they gain momentum and expertise, in effect creating a large and growing innovation network that will power the University of Rhode Island and the state of Rhode Island into the future.

As the state of Rhode Island’s public flagship research university and a critical partner in economic development and growth, URI offers 80 undergraduate and 70 graduate programs, including leading programs in engineering, health, business, oceanography and pharmaceutical sciences.

“These three innovation campuses will strengthen our economy and position Rhode Island to lead a new industrial revolution in advanced industries,” Raimondo said. “Not only will these projects result in hundreds of good-paying, high-tech jobs, thanks to our partnership with URI it will also ensure that Rhode Islanders are set up to compete for those jobs.”

“The university’s research capacity, intellectual talent, and business engagement are critical to the economic growth of the state,” Dooley said. “The University looks forward to working on these exciting new partnerships with the private sector and other higher education institutions to fuel the innovation economy.”

“Today’s announcement is the result of an important investment by the people of Rhode Island,” said Speaker of the House Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston). “It brings the University together with businesses, medical facilities and others in an exciting and innovative way that will have a positive economic impact on the future of this state. It will create high-tech jobs that are associated with a healthy economy and provide the educated workforce to fill those jobs.”

Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio said, “One of Rhode Island’s greatest economic advantages is its density of world class institutions of higher education. The innovation campuses build upon our assets by helping to transform research and development into new jobs and businesses, and ensuring Rhode Islanders are prepared for those jobs.”

“The competition for our Innovation Campus funding has been extremely competitive given the high-quality applicant pool,” said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor. “These three projects have the potential to advance our economy in areas from cybersecurity to agricultural technology to data analytics. This is exactly what we were hoping for when the governor, in partnership with the General Assembly and URI, proposed this program. We congratulate the designees and look forward to negotiating agreements that enable these Innovation Campuses to launch and flourish in Rhode Island.”

The next step in the process involves negotiation of agreements between the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and each of the successful projects.