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R.I. Governor and Commerce Corporation Expand Several Key Economic Projects and Initiatives

New innovation vouchers, InnovateNewport coworking space and P-TECH grants approved at November board meeting

Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Board of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation last night approved six local companies to receive the next round of Innovation Voucher awards: Aquanis, MindImmune Therapeutics, NanoSoft, ProThera Biologics, PowerDocks and Videology Imaging Solutions. Over $275,000 will be distributed across all six companies—a portion of the $1.5 million allocated for the grant program. The projects, which will take place in locations throughout the state, all leverage research and development partnerships with local universities or institutions.

"These six projects represent so much of what is great about Rhode Island - innovative businesses, world-renowned educational institutions, top-tier talent, and first-class research and development programs," said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. "When local companies are better able to partner with our universities, they can produce discoveries and advancements in science, technology, medicine and countless other fields that have the potential to grow jobs, strengthen our state, and build an innovation economy we can all be proud of."

Applicants recommended for funding represent a variety of advanced industries important to Rhode Island's ongoing economic growth, including biomedical innovation, green technology, pharmaceutical production and advanced manufacturing. The six award recipients are as follows:

• Aquanis LLC of North Kingston is partnering with Brown University Center for Computing and Visualization to develop an active flow control system that will improve the efficiency and extend the service life of wind turbines, leading to a reduction in the cost of wind energy. In the proposed project, the customized simulation software developed by Brown University researchers will provide critical information in the development, field trials and commercial deployment of Aquanis systems in the wind energy market.

• MindImmune Therapeutics, Inc. in Kingston will be working with the Comparative Biology Resources Center at the University of Rhode Island (URI) on new therapies for treating Alzheimer's disease. The project goal is to conduct testing of therapeutics to identify candidate drugs that can move into a clinical trial.

• Narragansett's NanoSoft, LLC and URI's Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Systems Engineering will partner to develop a prototype of their nanomaterial imaging technology with an improved control system and mechanical design that can be used in a lab setting to create enhanced fluid-based nanomaterial samples, providing insight for their integration into products such as pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and chemicals.

• ProThera Biologics, Inc. of Providence will work with ICU patients at Rhode Island Hospital diagnosed with severe pneumonia to study the blood levels of inter-alpha inhibitor proteins. This project will support the planned clinical trials of inter-alpha inhibitor proteins replacement therapy to treat patients with life-threatening diseases.

• PowerDocks LLC in Newport is teaming up with Roger Williams University to integrate customized wireless charging functionality into micro-grid platforms. This will expand this product's application to charging Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) for multiple industry markets.

• Greenville's Videology Imaging Solutions, Inc. and Brown University will partner to explore biometrics imaging of the human iris with the ultimate goal of implementing iris feature extraction algorithms into its newest cameras. This will produce standard compliant images for biometric/iris analysis for cameras for government, defense, banking and medical applications.

The Board also voted to award a Rebuild Rhode Island credit to support the redevelopment of the historic Sheffield School in Newport. The City of Newport proposed a $7.1 million redevelopment of the historic Sheffield School. The project is a collaboration between the City, the Newport County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Fund of Rhode Island (EDFRI).

"It's exciting that this project will transform a former school into a new, vibrant coworking space and office complex for Newport and for Rhode Island," said Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island's Secretary of Commerce. "Congratulations to all involved, including the City of Newport, the Chamber of Commerce, and EDFRI. Together, we are advancing Newport's and Rhode Island's economies."

The nearly 34,000-square foot school will be converted into a co-work and office complex targeted to entrepreneurs, innovators and small businesses working in the defense sector and allied industries, including underwater technologies and cyber security. Project sponsors will receive a maximum of $2,128,123 in Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credits, which will be issued over five years.

The Board also approved a $200,000 grant to the North Providence School Department for the development of a Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) program to open in Fall 2017. The proposed program would offer two healthcare career pathways: a health management or health informatics pathway and a nursing pathway with stackable credentials.

"The P-TECH initiative aligns the state's education systems with the needs of today's workforce," said Darin Early, President of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation. "Through partnerships built between high schools, colleges, industry associations and businesses, the initiative provides students with the education and skills they need to succeed and gives employers a pipeline to the workforce of the future."

In December 2015, the Board authorized $200,000 grants to the Newport, Providence and Westerly public school districts to develop P-TECH programs. These grants principally fund the salary for a P-TECH program director for up to the first two years of the program.

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