State Commitment to Innovation
Under Governor Gina M. Raimondo, Rhode Island has launched several economic development initiatives including instituting some of the most competitive and taxpayer-friendly incentives in the country, enacting programs to assist small businesses to conduct cutting-edge R&D, and offering an unprecedented array of other support programs to help companies relocate, expand, and hire Rhode Islanders in high-skill, 21st century jobs. The State is also investing in its workforce with leading programs which help students choosing to work in STEM fields in Rhode Island to repay student loan debt and make computer science available in all public schools across the state. Rhode Island proposes to become one of the first states to offer two years of tuition-free public higher education to all students in Rhode Island.
These initiatives have recently catalyzed significant economic development momentum in Rhode Island. Over the last year, GE Digital announced plans to create a new technology center in Providence; Johnson & Johnson announced the development of a new health tech center; the 267 year-old Finlays Extracts announced a major R&D and manufacturing facility in the State’s Quonset Business Park; and Wexford Science + Technology has initiated development of an Innovation Complex in the I-195 Providence Innovation & Design District, bringing the world-renowned Cambridge Innovation Center to Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Innovation Campus competition will build on this momentum and expand partnerships among research institutions, government, and private-sector entities, capitalizing on Rhode Island’s accelerating innovation in multiple industry sectors.
The RFP will offer an opportunity to build upon these economic development initiatives and momentum within innovation industries to create a cornerstone of the State’s commitment to innovation, representing a strong focus on job growth and catalytic statewide impact.
Academia & Research
URI is the state’s flagship institution of higher education and its only public research university. Nearly 20,000 students along with leading faculty and researchers build their futures at URI. The University is a leader in providing innovative ideas, adaptive intelligence, and breakthrough research to drive economic development in Rhode Island. Historically, URI’s strong ties and working relationships with the state’s leading businesses have led to innovative academic-industry collaborations, partnerships and workforce development initiatives across industries including STEM, health, and the financial industry. URI works with industry partners to offer students experiential learning opportunities, including internships with local, national, and global organizations. URI also offers resources for entrepreneurs and continuing education across numerous industries.
Rhode Island is home to several other leading academic institutions. These universities offer opportunities to leverage additional academic and research partnerships in addition to collaboration with URI. Leading institutions include Brown University, Bryant University, Johnson & Wales University, New England Institute of Technology, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, and Salve Regina University.
Rhode Island’s strengths cut across several industries. In 2016, Battelle Technology Partnership, in association with the Brookings Institution, published Rhode Island Innovates: A Competitive Strategy for the Ocean State, detailing industry sectors that invest heavily in innovative research and development, attract STEM workers, and demonstrate high productivity, strong exports, and higher pay.
The report identified key innovation sectors in Rhode Island:
- Ocean Sciences, Defense & Maritime: Rhode Island is the nation’s Ocean State – the state’s ocean sciences, defense, and maritime sectors are highly specialized, integrated across manufacturing, services, and research at URI and several other universities in Rhode Island, and the beneficiary of sizable defense funding. Rhode Island is home to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, described by a U.S. Secretary of Defense as the “Silicon Valley of undersea research,” and URI’s oceanography programs are among the world’s best.
- Cybersecurity, Data Analytics & IT: As demand increases for applied data science capabilities, the state is wellpositioned to capture this growth with development of new tools and cultivation of talent. Both Brown University and URI are expanding and advancing new educational offerings to meet significant workforce needs in the cybersecurity, data analytics, and information technology sectors. Recently, Brown University embarked on an ambitious $40 million Data Science Initiative bringing together the Math, Applied Math, Biostatistics and Computer Science departments.
- Bioscience, Neuroscience, & the Silver Economy: The state’s large health and life sciences industry is highly specialized in bioscience, neuroscience, and the silver economy, possessing a strong alignment of industry and academic core competencies. With existing assets, including world-class hospitals, academic strength and existing collaboration in neuroscience among partners including the URI George and Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience, Brown University, the Brown Institute for Brain Studies, the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute at Rhode Island Hospital, the Providence VA Medical Center and VA Center of Excellence for Neurorestoration and Neurotechnology, and Care New England, as well as proximity to the Boston biomedical cluster, the state has an opportunity to capture growing market opportunities targeted at aging populations.
- Offshore Energy: With its progressive regulations, burgeoning industry presence, including headquarters and suppliers, and the construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm, Rhode Island has positioned itself as a firstmover in the offshore energy sector. Rhode Island’s progressive management and protection of its ocean resources has been facilitated by the adoption of the Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) developed by URI Sea Grant, the URI Coastal Resources Center and the RI Coastal Resources Management Council.
- FinTech: Rhode Island’s strong reputation for talent development, academic strengths in applied mathematics and data analytics, lower costs of doing business, and attractiveness to millennials positions the state to deliver on the needs of the financial technology sector.
- Custom & Advanced Manufacturing: The state’s legacy manufacturing sector is transforming and building on the engineering strengths of URI, Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) to create a vibrant advanced manufacturing ecosystem. One of the few Ivy League universities with major programs in applied sciences, Brown University is making major investments in its engineering programs. RISD is a preeminent global leader in industrial design thinking and was originally founded in support of Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry in the late nineteenth century. These capabilities position the state to be a globally-competitive player in custom and advanced manufacturing.