Governor McKee, Commerce Corporation Approve Innovation Vouchers to Help Fund R and D
PROVIDENCE – Governor Dan McKee and the Board of Directors for Rhode Island Commerce last night approved three Innovation Vouchers. With these awards, there have now been 103 Innovation Voucher recipients, totaling an investment of $4.6 million. These awards have had a return of $16.3 million in new investment for these companies since the program’s inception.
“Rhode Island is leading the way out of the COVID-19 pandemic with an economic recovery that is outpacing our neighbors,” said Governor McKee. “This program is another example of the investments we are making to support small businesses, boost innovation, and increase commercialization for our Rhode Island businesses as we aim to increase wages and commerce across the state and at every level. Congratulations to the 103 small businesses who have utilized this impactful program.”
The Innovation Voucher program is designed to help spur innovation in the local economy by funding up to $50,000 for research and development. The program pairs small Rhode Island businesses with local knowledge partners like colleges, universities and hospitals. Manufacturers may also use vouchers for internal R&D.
“Supporting small businesses is one of our top priorities at Rhode Island Commerce,” said Commerce Secretary Liz Tanner. “The Innovation Voucher program — in partnership with our top-tier institutions of higher education — helps entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground right away, keeping jobs, innovation, and opportunities right here in the Ocean State.”
“We know research and development is one of the first items on the chopping block for our state’s small businesses,” said Rhode Island Commerce President Hilary Fagan. “With this support, small businesses throughout the state have advanced new products, secured new patents, and established connections with our academic institutions. These modest investments in research and development have the potential to unlock truly impactful economic returns.”
Innovation Vouchers can be used for support toward commercializing a new product, process or service; access to scientific, engineering and design expertise that fits an innovation need; technological development and exploration to make an innovation come to life; and/or scale-to-market development of an innovative idea.
Board specific awards:
- US Extruders, Inc. (USX) | $43,655 | With the manufacturing voucher funding USX will refine a recycling process to reduce and recycling existing fishing nets into a manageable size. The resized material will then be washed, dried, and placed into a USX 2.5″ diameter extrusion machine. The tests delivered by this funding will provide important data on the amount/percentage of material recycled, measure viscosity and the quality of the recycled product. Once the pellets are perfected, they will be marketed to other manufacturing partners looking for this type of recycled source material.
- Jonathan, Richard, & Fritzgerald, LLC (JRF) | $50,000 | JRF a Pawtucket-based firm is working to commercialize their new invention: Gif-O-Graf, an all-in-one animation system. After successful pilot programs with the Pawtucket School District and Pawtucket Public Library, JRF will use the RI Innovation Voucher to update and refine their engineering and manufacturing efforts to commercialize the Gif-O-Graf System, bringing their products to the entire state and beyond. The funding enables JRF to finalize their proof of concept launching their product fully into the marketplace.
- BluDAE Global Sustainability Inc. | $49,952 | BluDAE and the University of Rhode Island will test, demonstrate and improve the material characteristics of an innovative ‘green’ concrete building material. This green concrete replaces cement with hard-to-recycle post-consumer polymers (plastics). BluDAE integrates and sells turn-key mini-factories capable of producing a wide range of these products. This project will enable BluDAE to secure new, multi-million dollar international sales, expand into new markets like marine coastal habitat protection and restoration, and bring new manufacturing jobs to Rhode Island.
Other illustrative awards include:
- GoTeff: goTeff, Inc. – $49,985 to develop an optimized recipe and market scale process for production of the company’s existing products using the ancient Ethiopian grain teff, and to explore the use of injera as a new product.
- FluxMarine – $49,972 to help develop zero-emissions electric outboard motors for boats. The company is using funding to work with experts at the International Yacht Restoration School for Technology and Trades (IYRS) to use composite materials to reduce the cost and improve longevity and the performance of the engine. The composites will also displace more expensive and poorer quality metals.
- Sproutel – $50,000 to partner with Brown University to assess the effectiveness of the Jerry the Bear platform and a new prototype for delivering healthcare information to children. Sproutel has developed and produced Jerry the Bear, an interactive toy for children with type 1 diabetes that helps them learn about their medical procedures and treatment through play. The effectiveness of the current iteration of Jerry the Bear and the new prototype will be tested against one another, and against participant baselines regarding diabetes management prior to receiving Jerry the Bear. The Sproutel team was recently named to TIME’s list of 100 Best Inventions of 2021.
Other recipients report that the Voucher project enabled them to develop a product their customers had been requesting but that they did not have the internal resources to bring to market. Others have generated new patents which is an important predictor of success in research-based companies. Innovation Vouchers have also forged permanent ties between the companies and the educational institutions that can lead to new projects, a better understanding of the real needs of their business, and exposure to cutting edge technologies.
Projects approved to date represent a variety of industry sectors important to the state, including medical devices, life sciences, pharmaceutical manufacturing, data analytics, defense, engineering and shipbuilding.