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Six Rhode Island Companies to Receive Innovation Voucher Awards

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Governor Gina Raimondo and the Board of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation approved six local companies to receive the next round of Innovation Voucher awards: Aquanis, MindImmune Therapeutics, NanoSoft, ProThera Biologics, PowerDocks and Videology Imaging Solutions.

More than $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. 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," said Governor Gina Raimondo.

The Projects 

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 the government, defense, banking and medical applications.


Rebuild Rhode Island Credit 

The board also voted to award a Rebuild Rhode Island credit to support the redevelopment of the Sheffield School in Newport. The project is a collaboration between the City, the Newport County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Fund of Rhode Island. 

The 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. 

“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.

Project sponsors will receive a maximum of $2,128,123 in Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credits, which will be issued over five years.

Other Grants

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 which will open in the Fall of 2017. 

In December of 2015, the Board authorized $200,000 grants to the Newport, Providence, and Westerly public school districts to develop P-TECH programs. 


Related Slideshow: Power List - Business

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Big Bankers

Kevin Tracy and Oliver Bennett— There are deals and there are BIG DEALS. In Rhode Island, with all of the changing players and banking relationships, one reality is pretty much the same. If you have a big deal that needs sophisticated financing, the community banks may not be able to handle it.

Bank of America may have abandoned the Superman Building, but they are still in Rhode Island and still doing big deals. Kevin Tracy, the former Brown golfer and Oliver Bennett — long ago Fleet Bank trainees — are now the guys you bring in for a $50 million deal.  The more things change - the more they stay the same.

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John Hazen White, Jr. — White has taken Taco to new levels as he has made a series of strategic acquisitions to bolster the Rhode Island manufacturing company into a global firm.

He continues to be a leader in American manufacturing investing in worker retention and employee training.

Behind the scenes, White is a combination of an adviser and moral compass to many in Rhode Island. Despite taking a lower profile than his Lookout RI days, White is still a force pushing for ethics reform. 

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Joe Paolino — Once the young Mayor who took over in the 1980s when Buddy Cianci was forced to resign (the first time), now the leading corporate voice in Providence if not Rhode Island.

While others complain at lunches at the Hope Club and University Club about the plight of the Capital City, Paolino has rolled up his sleeves and taken on issues like panhandling and homelessness.

With a real estate empire that includes much of downtown, some of the top properties in Newport and Hasbro’s campus in Pawtucket to name a few, Paolino has close ties to Governor Gina Raimondo and even closer ties to the Clintons - could a federal appointment be in the works in 2017?

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Steve Kirby — No one dominates commercial real estate in Rhode Island like Kirby does on Aquidneck Island. His red “Kirby Commercial” signs are literally everywhere across the island and in Newport proper -- they are more frequent than street signs.

Want to open a clothing store in Newport? Go see Steve Kirby. Looking to launch a startup tech firm? Call Kirby. Developed cool technology and want to start producing for the Navy? Email Kirby.

Kirby maybe the most influential in business on Aquidniick Island. (PS He will tell you which bankers to talk to).

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Labor Boss

George Nee — President of the AFL-CIO, Nee is one of the most influential players in business in Rhode Island. 

He is Vice Chair of the Convention Center Authority Board, on the Commerce Corp board, the most influential voice for labor at the State House, and involved one way or another in just about every negotiation on constructing public buildings or issuing a tax stabilization agreement in Providence.

For the most part his public persona has been more muted recently, but that has not impacted his private influence. If it happens in Rhode Island, Nee has probably touched it.

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Sally Lapides — If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today and saw the number of Residential Properties’ real estate signs on the East Side he would call it a monopoly and want to break up the company. Lapides not only dominates one of the most affluent sections of Rhode Island, but she also delves into the arts, education and politics.

When you sell the wealthiest and most influential their homes, you make a lot of friends.

Lapides is a force in residential real estate and it will be interesting to see what she does next.

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Helena Foulkes — Two of the biggest decisions CVS ever made were the brain children of Foulkes. The Extracare card and the removal of tobacco from its stores were both influenced by Foulkes.

She has emerged as a national power in business and makes all the business lists for top women, but make no mistake - she is wildly influential in Rhode Island. 

She is close to Raimondo and she may decide to jump into political waters in the future - or may decide if she can snag the CEO spot at CVS.

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Visionary or Free Rider

Buff Chace — One of downtown Providence's biggest real estate magnates is a lightning rod in the Capital City. Widely considered to be one of the prime catalysts of Downcity's resurgence, Chace's accumulation of properties on Westminster Street is straight out of a Monopoly playbook. 

His recent acquisition of the ProJo building has further solidified his dominance, which has not been without intense scrutiny, given his ability to continually secure -- and extend -- tax stabilization agreements at a time when the city's dire financial straits are close to reaching a head. 

Wealthy, influential, and active in the community, Chace has chaired  the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy and has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Providence Foundation, and is a director emeritus for GrowSmart RI and a trustee emeritus of Trinity Repertory Theatre.

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Big Time

Richard Baccari — One of the biggest real estate developers in New England. For decades he has been a major player in Providence, Rhode Island and the northeast.

During that span, he has been the driving and innovative force behind some of the region's most significant residential and commercial development endeavors. 

See a Stop and Shop development and Baccari probably built it. Has fought back business challenges and much more.


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