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$300,000 Fellowships will spur innovation
By Chris Barnett / April 15, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...

The Rhode Island Foundation has announced the recipients of its 2015 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowships.

John Haley and the husband and wife team of Daniel Kamil and Emily Steffian will both receive $300,000 grants over three years to pursue their bold ideas for improving life in Rhode Island. The Fellowships are made possible through the vision and generosity of philanthropists Letitia and John Carter.

“John, Daniel and Emily have proposed impressive strategies for creating change and addressing the challenges our state faces,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “We applaud Letitia and John Carter for their investment in Rhode Island’s potential.”

Now in its fourth year, the program is intended to stimulate solutions by Rhode Islanders to Rhode Island challenges. The applications from Haley and Kamil and Steffian were chosen from a pool of 354 proposals.

Haley proposes to stimulate the state’s shellfish industry by creating a more reliable method of obtaining blue mussel seed stock fixed to a growth/cultivation substrate. He will manufacture a Blue Mussel Spat Attachment Cord, pre-loaded with blue shell mussel larva -- called “spat” – made available to shellfish cultivators year-round.

“Pre-loaded spat cord will reduce steps in cultivation practices now costly to fishermen and processors and eliminate a fundamental hurdle to the industry’s expansion – waiting for natural mussel spawning events,” he said.

“Commercial production of the cord and creating multiple harvests every year will lead to steady employment for many Rhode Islanders, careers for others and recognition of our state as a leader in a modern, environmentally responsible shellfish cultivation industry,” he said.

Kamil and Steffian will launch the Providence Cinematheque, Rhode Island's only multi-screen exhibition space and educational facility focusing on first-run, independent film programming; repertory series, film festivals and a curriculum in film history and media literacy.

“We envision the Cinematheque as a regional leader in media arts that will enhance Rhode Island's reputation as an arts and culture innovator,” said Kamil.

Educational programs will provide Rhode Island's youth, educators and adult learners with the critical viewing skills essential for understanding and communicating in the technological global community. In addition, there will be a particular emphasis on independent films made by women and minorities.

“The Cinematheque will provide a much needed space for often under-represented voices in the film world. The community will benefit from our diverse, innovative and collaborative programming, enhancing our state's cultural, intellectual and artistic life,” said Steffian.

In addition, five finalists were selected based on the merit and potential of their proposals.

         Harold Vincent proposed creating the Ocean Technology Manufacturing Center, which would apply new technological developments to traditional markets in military, scientific and commercial endeavors such as offshore oil and gas production and extend them into the new sectors of offshore renewable energy, scientific research and environmental monitoring.

         Meg O’Leary and Sarah Friedman proposed founding the state’s first urban teacher residency program, specializing in serving English Language Learner and low-income students in order to improve academic performance in urban schools.

         Arnell Milhouse, founder of IntraCity Geeks, planned to use the Fellowship to expand ClassForward, the nation’s first series of computer-programming, junior bootcamps and junior hackathons for K-12 students. IntraCity Geeks seeks to ignite the state’s economy by creating a pipeline of STEM job candidates and entrepreneurs.

         Andrew Trench, Kyla Coburn and Peter Haas proposed building RI3D, a publicly accessible 3D library of the state’s environmental and historical treasures where students, artists, architects and engineers can preserve and work with the most advanced mapping technologies.

         Bruce Campbell and Walter Zesk proposed creating a single, on-line resource portal to coordinate Rhode Island's awareness of and adaptation to sea level-rise concerns.

A seven-member selection panel reviewed the proposals, looking for ideas that represented pioneering work, exceptional leadership, bold vision, risk-taking, potential to scale up and statewide impact.

Chaired by Steinberg, the panelists were Patricia Flanagan, chief of clinical affairs for Hasbro Children’s Hospital; Ted Nesi, political and economic reporter at WPRI; ; Lisa Utman Randall, executive director of the Jamestown Arts Center; Dan Shedd, president of Taylor Box Co., Rosanne Somerson, president of the Rhode Island School of Design; and Don Stanford, chief innovation officer at GTECH.

This is the fourth year of funding. Previous rounds generated more than 950 applications. Last year’s recipients were Amy Bernhardt and David Dadekian.

Bernhardt is about to launch Colorfast. Located in Pawtucket’s Design Exchange, it will be a state-of-the-art research and manufacturing pilot facility for the design and production of digitally printed fabrics.

Dadekian is working on the Eat Drink Rhode Island Central Market, will house a number of food and drink related businesses, including a public market, commercial production and processing facilities, and an educational component.  

The 2013 Fellows are Adrienne Gagnon and Dr. Lynn Taylor.

Gagnon’s Innovation by Design project is helping foster the next generation of Rhode Island innovators. She is designing a set of fun, hands-on learning activities that will help children tackle any challenge they've identified, in any subject, using the same process that designers use in their work. Innovation by Design is also offering free, day-long Design Thinking residencies to schools across the state to introduce these tools to teachers and students.

Dr. Lynn Taylor’s project, Rhode Island Defeats Hep C, aims to make Rhode Island the first state to eliminate the hepatitis C virus infection using a comprehensive approach that includes increasing awareness, enhanced screening to cure, building infrastructure for a sustainable model and evaluation. Her outreach this year will be highlighted by a WaterFire event Aug. 1.

Soren Ryherd and Allan Tear received the inaugural grants in 2012.

Ryherd’s The Retail Project has created three on-line stores to date, Felix Chien, a retailer of upscale fashion for dogs; Urbilis, a concept built around high-design garden-inspired home goods; and Slumbersome, which offers an array of bedding, masks and other products for people with insomnia. His goal is to move from the web to a conventional retail location within five years.

Tear‘s RallyRI project is building platforms to help entrepreneurs launch start-ups in sectors such as art and design, food and beverage and advanced manufacturing.  

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island.  In 2014, the Foundation awarded $34.8 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities. Through leadership, fundraising and grantmaking activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential. 

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