U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline today announced that the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) a $2.3 million grant to open a new facility in Rhode Island that will support the growth of the local textiles, composites, and undersea technology industries.
The grant from the EDA’s Public Works Program will fund the construction of a new Advanced Materials and Technology Center for 401 Tech Bridge, a partnership between Polaris MEP, the University of Rhode Island, the Composites Alliance of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Textiles Innovation Network, and the Office of Naval Research.
The 17,000-square-foot facility will be located in Portsmouth.
“This is another positive step toward developing a strong, sustainable technological ecosystem here in Rhode Island. This federal funding will help 401 Tech Bridge and its partners build on their success and attract more opportunities for entrepreneurship, investment, and innovation,” said Senator Reed in a press release.
“Composites and textiles connect our past and future in Rhode Island’s economy,” said Whitehouse, who worked with industry and academic partners to convene both the Composites Alliance of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Textiles Innovation Network, and advocated for this 401 Tech Bridge grant. “This award is a milestone in our years-long collaboration within and between the two industries. The funding comes in time to boost our economy with local job growth in industries with a storied history, now uniquely positioned for innovation, growth and success.”
“Industry and innovation are at the core of Rhode Island’s strength and by supporting projects like the 401 Tech Bridge we are bolstering our states economic competitiveness,” said Congressman Langevin. “I’m pleased that this EDA grant invests in Rhode Island’s long-term productivity, promotes stronger industry partnerships, and will create jobs during this challenging economic time. To continue to advance, we must capitalize on our strengths and empower our workforce.”
“The East Bay is a leader in the American composites industry,” Congressman Cicilline said in the release. “This new funding will help this emerging sector of our economy continue grow and put more Rhode Islanders to work. I applaud the Economic Development Administration for recognizing the potential of the composites industry in our state.”
The Advanced Materials and Technology Center will include a lab for research and development as well as co-working space for the center’s staff, Polaris MEP, and tenant partners. The facility is expected to open in the first half of 2021. The EDA’s investment will be matched with $790,000 in local funds and is expected to help create 400 jobs.
“401 Tech Bridge is an important economic development program designed to increase technology commercialization through physical space and partnerships,” said Christian Cowan, Chief Operating Officer of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation, who conceived of the 401 Tech Bridge and brought the team and funders together. “Rhode Island was identified as the first Tech Bridge location supporting dual use collaboration with the Navy because of our rich history with manufacturing and technology. We are thrilled to be awarded this EDA grant which will further activate this collaborative technology commercialization, increase jobs and aide the regional economic recovery.”
401 Tech Bridge, a nonprofit economic development organization, launched late last year to support Rhode Island’s promising textiles, composites, and undersea technology industries by facilitating industry connections, research, and workforce development. The approximately 150 Rhode Island companies in the textiles and composites sectors employ 4,000 people and have a combined annual revenue of nearly $2 billion.