August 4, 2016 – PROVIDENCE, RI – Polaris MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership), a division of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation, announces today the recipients of the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge Level 1 and Level 2 awards. The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge is a competitive opportunity for RI manufacturers to access expertise and hands-on design and product development talent to stimulate business growth, innovation and strategic advancement. It is the state’s most significant investment in Rhode Island’s manufacturing sector currently, thanks to federal funds through Rhode Island Commerce Corporation.
The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge awards through Polaris MEP are in two levels, and were evaluated based on the applications from each company. Sixty-nine RI companies applied in total to the Challenge, representing over $617 million in revenue and 3,921 employees. Of these applications, an independent review panel selected the following 32 awardees, totaling upwards of $700,000 in award value:
Level 1: Strategic Assessment (23 companies)
Level 2: Growth Implementation (9 companies)
“Rhode Island’s economy and our national security depend on having a strong manufacturing and technology base at home. I’m pleased that Polaris MEP and its partners, with the help of funds provided by the Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), will assist 32 Rhode Island companies to evaluate how they can grow, diversify, and develop new opportunities in today’s economy,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a member of both the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees. “I want to commend Polaris MEP and all those involved in developing the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge for their hard work to bolster and elevate our state’s manufacturing sector.”
“We are excited at the potential these awards provide for our manufacturing community in Rhode Island,” stated Rhode Island Governor, Gina Raimondo. “This Manufacturing Innovation Challenge brings together some of the top talent and expertise in the state, from Polaris MEP, the Commerce Corporation, RISD, the Chafee Center and others. Congratulations to all the RI manufacturers who raised their hand to participate in this program and who are ready to take the next steps to innovate.”
The awards take effect immediately. Manufacturers will be engaged with team leaders for each Level and execution of the awards will take place at staggered intervals throughout 2016 and 2017. Another application round for Level 1 and Level 2 awards is expected to take place at the end of 2016 or early 2017.
Level 1 focuses on strategic assessment, where awarded manufacturers will get access to a top team of experts for a strategic assessment of the manufacturers’ current innovation landscape. This deep dive into the company involves over 75 hours of expert consulting led through strategic design facilitation. The deliverable is innovative ideas and actionable recommendations for business growth. Each award is valued at $15,000.
Level 2 is focused on growth implementation. With ideas and recommendations in hand from the prior phase, companies can access funding to implement plans for business development and innovation. Awarded manufacturers in this phase will have made the case on how these funds will be utilized to take their company to the next level. These cash awards can be utilized to engage in expert consulting to help with implementation. Each awardee can access up to $35,000 to pay for implementation.
“The response to this opportunity has been incredible,” said Christian Cowan, Center Director for Polaris MEP. “This is an unprecedented opportunity for Rhode Island manufacturers. We are excited to provide manufacturers with access to world-class experts through this program and to grow our manufacturing capabilities through industrial design, innovation and education.”
In addition to Level 1 and Level 2 of the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge, awards for a Level 3 opportunity are still being determined. These awards will be announced at a later time.
The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge is a program of Polaris MEP, in partnership with Commerce RI, and made possible by a grant to Commerce RI from the Office of Economic Adjustment and U.S. Department of Defense. For questions, contact Polaris MEP at 401-270-8896 or email MIC@polarismep.org.