Blazejewski Innovate RI program included in budget

STATE HOUSE – The Innovate RI Small Business Program, which Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski introduced to give a boost to small businesses in Rhode Island's burgeoning science and technology sector, has been incorporated into the state budget bill passed by the General Assembly today.

The program would assist Rhode Island small businesses in applying for federal funds targeting research and innovation. It would also match some or all of the federal funds awarded. The program is modeled on a successful initiative in North Carolina. The legislation also creates a bioscience and engineering internship program modeled on a successful program in Massachusetts.

"This program is a low-cost way to leverage grants that will propel research toward marketable technologies that will, in turn, benefit our state, both in tax revenues and in making Rhode Island a hub of the knowledge and tech sectors," said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

Representative Blazejewski proposed the program in April in a bill (2013-H 5979) that was later included in the package of economic development legislation backed by House leaders. The House Finance Committee then incorporated the program into the budget bill (2013-H 5127Aaa) , which passed both the House and the Senate this week and will now be forwarded to the governor.

Under Innovate RI, which would be administered by the Rhode Island Science and Technological Council (STAC), small businesses in Rhode Island would qualify for reimbursement of up to half of the cost of preparing applications for Phase I Small Business Innovative Research grants or Small Business Technology Transfer Research grants from the United States Small Business Administration, up to $3,000. The two federal grant programs have awarded billions of dollars to help small businesses expand and create new commercial opportunities through research and technological advancement.

Rhode Island companies that win a Phase I federal grant would then be eligible to receive matching grants of up to $100,000 each from STAC for that grant, provided they comply with the terms of the federal grant and apply for its second phase. Those that also win a Phase II grant would be eligible for matching loans from STAC for up to $300,000 for that phase, provided they are applying for Phase III funds.

To be eligible for either the reimbursement or the matching grant, the company must certify that the majority of its research will be conducted in Rhode Island, and that the business will remain in Rhode Island for the duration of the research project.

The legislation also creates a bioscience and engineering internship program focused on enhancing the talent pipeline for Rhode Island companies engaged in biosciences or engineering. The program facilitates the placement of students and recent graduates who are considering career opportunities in the biosciences or engineering in paid internships across the state, and allows eligible companies to seek reimbursement for a portion of the interns' stipends.

"Rhode Island was once a flourishing capital of manufacturing and jewelry making. We should be working to get a foothold in new, promising fields – sectors that can draw on the strength of our local universities, colleges and hospitals – so we can emerge the leader in new industries that will grow, succeed and employ Rhode Islanders," said Representative Blazejewski. "I'm very happy to see that this program will be available to assist businesses in Rhode Island soon."

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457