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URI misses out on $78 million federal grant for blue economy

URI still has big plans for its bedraggled Bay Campus. The ballot initiative this November for $100 million in borrowing could support it.

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, left, with University of Rhode Island President Marc Parlange in August, next to a small-scale model of URI's vision of the future Bay Campus in the current Ocean Science and Exploration Center building.Matthew Healey for The Boston Globe

PROVIDENCE — A proposal to fund a blue economy tech cluster at the University of Rhode Island’s Bay Campus in Narragansett missed out on $78 million in federal funding.

The U.S. Department of Commerce, led by former Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo, announced the winners of regional challenge grants from the Economic Development Administration on Friday.

URI’s proposal was one of 60 finalists out of hundreds of proposals, but it was not among the 21 winners.

“We’re disappointed that Rhode Island was not selected for an EDA grant, but our commitment to growing the state’s Blue Economy is unwavering,” Tom Giordano, the executive director of the CEO roundtable Partnership for Rhode Island, said in an email. “Inclusive and sustainable economic development is needed and we believe that the University of Rhode Island will be an engine for that growth.”


Giordano’s organization was among the partners on the proposal, led by the URI Research Foundation. They will now work to find alternative funding opportunities and try to figure out what the state could have done differently to strengthen its application, Giordano said.

The blue economy refers to industries spanning from aquaculture to defense to shipping to wind power.

A separate regional grant proposal that would have touched on Rhode Island, this one led by Northeastern University in Boston and focusing on biomanufacturing, also didn’t make the cut for an EDA grant.

URI’s grant proposal would have funded various blue economy initiatives at the Bay Campus, including new buildings and a “smart bay.”

“We remain fully committed to our shared vision to establish Rhode Island and southern New England as a leading global hub for the Blue Economy,” Peter Snyder, vice president for research and economic development, University of Rhode Island and chair of the board of the URI Research Foundation, said in an email Friday. “Through a strong coalition with industry, government, philanthropic, non-profit, community, and academic partners, and with the support of our elected leaders, we already have made great progress in several key areas. We will continue to aggressively pursue opportunities to build and diversify a Blue Economy that will spur job creation and economic development for Rhode Island and the region.”


URI has big plans for the bedraggled Bay Campus, and there’s a ballot initiative this November for $100 million in borrowing to support it. That’s still on the table — as is the state’s focus on the blue economy, proponents say.

“We remain committed to leveraging Rhode Island’s incredible assets and talents to fulfill our vision to keep our state at the epicenter of the global Blue Economy,” Commerce RI, another partner in the URI proposal, said in an email.

This story has been updated with a response from Peter Snyder, URI vice president for research and economic development.

Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him @bamaral44.