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Special: The knowledge economy in profile

Metro Editor
Thursday, March 11, 2010

The two words have become something of a magic catchphrase for Providence’s future. Say “knowledge economy” — with the perfect combination of hope and awe — around City officials, University administrators and local entrepreneurs, and watch the glimmer flicker across their eyes.

Last spring, Brown partnered with local business and government leaders to open the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Parallel to the University’s Technology Ventures Office, the center works with professors and students to transform lab-based research projects into real-world marketable products.

The goal is to foster more private startup ventures born out of University and hospital research activity. Startup firms that may have previously migrated to larger intellectual centers like Boston or New York could instead remain in Providence, anchoring economic activity downtown and further integrating Brown into its surrounding city.

The Jewelry District — with its 20th-century facades and narrow, quiet streets — is quickly becoming an epicenter for Providence’s intellectually-fueled growth.

Less than a mile from the Main Green, the area has the potential to become a second campus within the next 10 years — an urban sister to College Hill.

Long-term University plans include lively street-front cafes, green promenades and easy transportation up and down the Hill. Administrators have expressed hope that the combination of the Alpert Medical School’s presence at 222 Richmond St. and the demolition of the old I-95 highway barrier will yield an economic renewal in the district.

But private investment is a key element to these dreams. Today, The Herald profiles four members of Providence’s burgeoning “knowledge economy.”  Two of the firms are headquartered within the Jewelry District itself and two have their offices nearby on the East Side.

— Brigitta Greene

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