Rhode Island Commerce Awards More Than $850,000 in Innovation Initiatives

 Rhode Island Commerce Awards More Than $850,000 in Innovation Initiatives
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. – In a continuing effort to strengthen the state’s innovation economy and ensure small businesses can access the tools and resources they need to grow, the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation (Corporation) recently awarded more than $700,000 through its Innovation Network Matching Grant program and $150,000 in Innovation Vouchers.


Unanimously approved by the Corporation’s Board of Directors in late February, this latest round of Network Matching Grant funding will support eight organizations operating across the state, each of which is committed to working directly with locally based businesses to offer mentorship, business advisory services, technical assistance, flexible workspace, access to capital, and other supports. Two Innovation Vouchers were also approved by the Corporation’s Board of Directors on March 25th.


“Rhode Island has built its statewide economic momentum on the consistent success of our diverse, hard-working, locally owned small businesses, and we are committed to continuing to invest in this vibrant community’s growth,” said Governor Dan McKee. “With this latest round of awards, we are supporting a diverse range of established organizations with proven, successful approaches to helping small businesses thrive in Rhode Island’s evolving economy.”


Requiring at least a 50% match from the applicant, the Innovation Network Matching Grant program provides matching grants of at least $50,000 to eligible Rhode Island non-profit organizations, for-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and/or co-working space operators who offer direct services and supports to businesses across the state. Since awards were first made in 2016, the Innovation Network Matching Grant program has awarded 44 grants, totaling $5.2 million.

Innovation Vouchers are rolling grants of up to $75,000 that are awarded for small business research and development conducted in partnership with a local “knowledge provider” (typically an institution of higher education) or in-house for manufacturers.

“The Innovation Voucher and Innovation Network Matching Grant programs are some of the many ways we are helping small businesses execute their long-term plans to grow, create jobs and drive our economy forward,” said Secretary of Commerce Liz Tanner. “We are pleased with the diversity in the range of services this round of awardees offer and we look forward to continuing to work with these organizations on behalf of the business community.”


This most recent round of Innovation Network Matching Grant recipients include:

  • Innovation Studio | $99,400 | This project will increase program capacity by hiring two bilingual business consultants to expand culturally tailored access to programs and services offered by Innovation Studio, including business accelerators, advising services and networking opportunities. This new funding will help Innovation Studio serve an additional 100 business owners and entrepreneurs, at least 70% of whom will be women or entrepreneurs of color.
  • New Majority Capital Foundation Inc. | $95,058 | This project will provide small business owners in Rhode Island who are approaching retirement with the information and resources needed to successfully transition business ownership.
  • Newport Community Development Council | $105,000 | This project will support the Greater Newport Soft Landing and Scale-up program, which supports the growth and expansion of existing businesses and creates a path for international companies looking for a landing spot in Rhode Island.
  • New England Medical Innovation Center | $99,420* | This project will support NEMIC’s Activate Accelerator Program, which aims to support entrepreneurs in the development of medical device startups by offering a structured mentoring program, funding support, and a 6-month accelerator initiative. Participants, selected based on commercial viability, receive up to $20,000 to advance key activities, undergo training in the Med Tech Leadership Program, and engage with external stakeholders to enhance their startups’ investment readiness and growth prospects.
  • Providence Revolving Fund | $106,500 | This project will expand the organization’s Small Business Loan Fund, which provides small businesses with loans of up to $20,000 with flexible underwriting and in-house loan servicing. PRF will hire a Small Business Loan Program Manager dedicated to this program; build user-friendly templates making it easier for small businesses to access capital; and provide basic technical assistance.
  • Rhode Island Bio | $95,000* | This project will support the development of the AIM program (AI Momentum) to accelerate the adoption and commercialization of cutting-edge AI technologies. Through this, Rhode Island Bio will help advance Rhode Island’s AI community with a focus on Life Sciences, ultimately increasing innovation capacity in small businesses.
  • Rhode Island Farm Incubator | $105,000 | This project will support the Rhode Island Farm Incubator by mentoring between 8-10 businesses working at the intersection of farm/food, nutrition, and healthcare (primarily focused on lifestyle medicine methods). The Incubator provides a complete suite of resources and services, including compensation and certain capital costs, to incubate and fund new farm/food ventures and community improvement projects.
  • United Way of Rhode Island | $90,000 | This project will support The Alliance for Nonprofit Impact at United Way to further develop critically needed technical assistance resources and address barriers to capital and funding for locally based nonprofits. The Alliance will provide technical assistance through the development of a Pro Bono Office Hour/Flash Consulting program, as well as a Resource Library and centralized training calendar for nonprofits. The Alliance will support the development of fundraising capacity through an Equity Funding Accelerator and a “Fundraising and Development for Nonprofit Organization” cohort training program.

*The Rhode Island Life Sciences Hub will reimburse Rhode Island Commerce for these awards.

This most recent round of Innovation Voucher recipients include:

  • Audiance, Inc. | Manufacturing Voucher | $75,000 | Active implantable medical devices (AIMDs) for prosthetics and therapeutics such as cochlear implants, pacemakers, neuro-, gastric- and bone growth-stimulators, implantable cardiac defibrillators, and drug pumps, can save lives, improve the quality of life, as well as save billions of dollars in lost productivity and health care costs. Safe, anatomically sized, long-lasting batteries are required to drive these implants. Leveraging the learning from the design, fabrication and characterization of batteries for a totally internal cochlear implant, Audiance plans to demonstrate a robust scalable strategy to make batteries that are suitable for any AIMDs.
  • US Extruders, Inc. | Manufacturing Voucher | $75,000 | US Extruders plans to design, engineer, and manufacture a RAM stuffer that will be an automated mechanical device to push recycled plastics (shredded material) into the extruder barrel for recycling. The RAM stuffer is projected to increase the efficiency of the extruder. This will be demonstrated with a scaled prototype that will be installed on a 4.5” diameter extruder.

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