PORTSMOUTH, R.I.— 401 Tech Bridge, an economic development organization that connects manufacturers, small businesses, research and development entities, trade organizations, and state and defense agencies to collaborate in the development of new advanced materials and technologies, recently completed a $6 million funding round.

A recently secured $2.3 million implementation grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) rounds out the capital raise to support the launch of 401 Tech Bridge, which includes the addition of a new 17,000-square-foot Advanced Materials and Technology Center in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. The EDA grant will cover construction costs for the new Advanced Materials and Technology Center, expected to open in the first half of 2021, according to a release from 401 Tech Bridge.

As the first center of its kind in Rhode Island, the Portsmouth facility will include lab space for prototyping, testing, and proof-of-concept builds, and a collaborative space for industry, government, and academia to work with partners on design, modeling, testing, and digital verification. The facility will also include office space and will feature a convertible open meeting space for presentations, training seminars, and events.

Companies will be able to work with cross-functional teams to develop new ideas, and large entities can sponsor projects that leverage the expertise of small companies, universities, and others. The site is intended to help support and accelerate the growth of three key industries in the state of Rhode Island and its surrounding region—composites, textiles, and undersea technology—and is expected to create 400 high-value jobs in Rhode Island.

“Composites and textiles connect our past and future in Rhode Island’s economy,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, in the release. Senator Whitehouse 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.”

The new Advanced Materials and Technology Center facility will help further the ongoing work that 401 Tech Bridge has implemented on behalf of its partner organizations. It will substantially add to the capabilities of the newly opened, 190,000-square-foot Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering at the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus. The Fascitelli Center facilitates transformational research, prototyping, testing, and validation of concepts, as well as engagement with industry partners, faculty researchers, and students on sponsored projects.

“This is another positive step toward developing a strong, sustainable technological ecosystem here in Rhode Island,” added Senator Jack Reed. “This federal funding will help 401 Tech Bridge and its partners build on their success and attract more opportunities for entrepreneurship, investment, and innovation.”

401 Tech Bridge provides opportunities and resources to galvanize advanced materials and technology commercialization efforts and quickly meet changing demands for national defense, infrastructure, and healthcare. The organization was formed to create a center of excellence to connect innovative companies to business opportunities—facilitating collaboration across industry, government, and academia. Its aims include opening R&D pathways; leveraging Rhode Island’s leadership in advanced materials and technology; navigating complex business relationships; and accelerating manufacturing development.

The 401 Tech Bridge serves as a super-connector for Rhode Island companies that are developing leading-edge advanced materials and technologies; governmental organizations and major corporations with funded projects that call for advanced materials and technologies; and the region’s academic institutions who have related knowledge base and research capabilities. By facilitating these connections and collaboration throughout its network, 401 Tech Bridge acts as a one-stop resource to help companies accelerate the journey from concept to prototype to commercialization, while making the transfer of technology faster, easier, and more collaborative.

Additional funding to create the 401 Tech Bridge organization was provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP); the Office of Naval Research; the Rhode Island Innovation Campus; the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation; The Rhode Island Foundation; and the van Beuren Charitable Foundation.

Christian Cowan, chief operating officer of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation, who conceived of the 401 Tech Bridge and brought its team and funders together, commented on the funding in a press release.

“We are thrilled to be awarded this EDA grant that will further accelerate 401 Tech Bridge’s collaborative technology commercialization, increase jobs, and aid the regional economic recovery,” said Cowan in the release. “Since its inception, 401 Tech Bridge has been leveraging its relationships to connect technologies to the organizations that can commercialize them—including being the first site to partner with the Office of Naval Research’s Naval X Tech Bridge initiative to expand collaboration and innovation among the Navy, academia, and regional companies. Ultimately this helps to get advanced materials and technology innovations into the hands of users, for the benefit of all.”

The 401 Tech Bridge (https://401techbridge.org/) is a business unit of The University of Rhode Island Research Foundation, and serves as a partner intermediary organization for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, supporting the Naval X Northeast Tech Bridge. It receives support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, The Rhode Island Foundation, and the Van Beuren Charitable Foundation.

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