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Now accepting applications for Innovation Fellowships
By Chris Barnett / October 19, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...

The Rhode Island Foundation is accepting applications for $300,000 grants to develop, test and implement innovative ideas that have the potential to dramatically improve any area of life in Rhode Island.

An annual initiative to stimulate proposals that can move Rhode Island forward, the Rhode Island Innovation Fellowships are made possible through the vision and generosity of philanthropists Letitia and John Carter.

“This program enhances Rhode Island’s reputation as a place of innovation and ingenuity. We thank Letitia and John Carter for having the vision to encourage bold thinkers to bring their best ideas to life,” said Neil Steinberg, the Foundation’s president and CEO.

Preference will be given to proposals that promise the greatest good for the greatest number of Rhode Islanders, a small idea that has big potential to be built to scale or new approaches to long-standing, intractable challenges.

“Letitia and I believe strongly in the promise of our state and the importance of innovation. We hope this program will continue to generate creative proposals with the potential to lead to great things,” said John Carter.

Several improvements have been made to the program this year to clarify eligibility and intent. For example, teams of applicants are ineligible for the first time. 

Most of the program's requirements have not changed. Although applicants do not have to be residents of Rhode Island when they apply, they must commit to living in Rhode Island during the term of the Fellowship if selected.

The deadline to apply is Fri., Dec. 11. The one-page, initial application asks applicants to summarize their proposed innovation in no more than 150 words and to describe how it would benefit Rhode Islanders.

In February 2016, the selection panel will ask a group of semi-finalists to submit a more detailed application and a short video. The Foundation expects to announce the winners in April.

Steinberg will chair the selection committee. The other members are Victor Capellan, superintendent of schools in Central Falls; Janet Coit, director of the state Department of Environmental Management; Patricia Flanagan, professor of pediatrics and chief of clinical affairs at Hasbro Children’s Hospital; Theresa Moore, president of T-Time Productions; Aidan Petrie, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Ximedica; and Dan Shedd, president of Taylor Box Company.

This will be the fifth round of funding. Previous rounds generated more than 1,250 applications. The 2015 recipients are John Haley and the husband and wife team of Daniel Kamil and Emily Steffian.

Haley is working on a plan 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.

Kamil and Steffian are working on the Providence Cinematheque, Rhode Island's only multi-screen exhibition space and educational facility focusing on first-run, independent film programming; repertory series, and a curriculum in film history and media literacy. They will launch the first annual Providence Art and Design Film Festival later this month.

The 2014 Fellows are Amy Bernhardt and David Dadekian.

Amy Bernhardt's project “Colorfast,” is a digitally printed textile facility that also houses an extensive original and vintage print collection art directed by Zoe Latta of Prince Ruth.

Dadekian is launching the "Eat Drink Rhode Island Central Market," which 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 fostering the next generation of Rhode Island innovators with the creation of the Change Agent, a Design Thinking toolkit for the classroom. Gagnon offers free professional development workshops for RI educators and also engages students throughout RI in designing positive change for their communities through her free Mobile Design Lab residencies.

Taylor has launched the “Rhode Island Defeats Hep C” campaign, which aims to make Rhode Island the first state to eliminate the Hepatitis C virus infection using a comprehensive approach that includes increasing awareness, testing to cure, building infrastructure for a sustainable model and evaluation.

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

Ryherd’s “The Retail Project” runs three e-commerce stores with the goal of opening brick and mortar stores in Rhode Island neighborhoods.

Tear‘s "RallyRI" project built platforms to help entrepreneurs launch start-ups in sectors such as art and design, food and beverage and advanced manufacturing. The work continues in initiatives such as DesignxRI, EdTechRI and the Founders League.

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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