PROVIDENCE — Two projects sponsored by Rhode Island are among 60 finalists for $1 billion in competitive Department of Commerce grants.
The 60 finalists, culled from 529 proposals, will be whittled down to 20 or 30, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the former governor of Rhode Island, announced Monday. The finalists will get $500,000 to further develop their proposals by March. The money from the U.S. Economic Development Administration is funded through the American Rescue Plan.
The more Rhode Island-centric of the two finalists would support an effort led by the URI Research Foundation to diversify the state’s blue economy away from a concentration on tourism. The Rhode Island Blue Economy Technology Cluster would support things like wind and wave power, “while improving the productivity of the blue tourism sub-industry.”
As the proposal says: “The most vibrant version of Rhode Island’s future is bright ‘Blue.’”
That might be true, but as it stands now, four out of every five blue economy jobs in the state are concentrated in tourism, according to Rhode Island’s proposal.
Projects within the larger vision of Rhode Island’s proposal include research and development — a “Smart Bay,” as it’s dubbed — a Blue Tech Innovation Center, workforce development, a deep water port in East Providence that could support offshore wind, a training an offshore wind training and transport center, and a “smart shellfish hatchery.” The Rhode Island Blue Economy Technology Cluster, as the overarching proposal is called, said it has identified $44 million in private and public matching funds. It would also include collaboration with Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The other proposal that touches on Rhode Island would have as a lead sponsor Northeastern University in Boston, called BioConnects New England. Across hubs stretching from Maine to Rhode Island, partners would work to support a new biomanufacturing cluster, making things like monoclonal antibodies, cell and gene therapies and RNA/DNA therapeutics.
The Rhode Island institutions that would take part in it include the I-195 Design and Innovation District in Providence and the University of Rhode Island.