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Biden administration designates new ‘Tech Hub’ in Rhode Island

R.I. Commerce’s Ocean Tech Hub receives federal grant to develop ‘blue economy’

On Oct. 23, the Biden-Harris Administration designated the Ocean Tech Hub of Southeastern New England as one of 31 “Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs” across the United States. The U.S. Economic Development Administration also awarded the Ocean Tech Hub one of 29 Strategy Development Grants to “further develop their technology-based regional economic development strategy,” according to the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s website.

The Tech Hubs Program, which is part of the Biden administration’s CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, hopes to “strengthen U.S. economic and national security” by investing in the growth of new, competitive industries, according to EDA’s website. The program is made possible by President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda, a series of legislations passed to stimulate growth in the private sector through government investment.

Led by the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, the Ocean Tech Hub is a consortium of 16 community partners across Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including 401 Tech Bridge, IBM, R.I. Marine Trades Association and numerous research universities such as Brown. The OTH was formed earlier this year, following the enactment of the federal Tech Hubs Program in May, according to the Hub’s website. 

The OTH and its new designation represent a step forward in the development of Rhode Island’s blue economy, according to Christian Cowan, executive director of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation.“We define the blue economy as the sustainable use of the ocean and our water assets to create a resilient economy and good-paying jobs,” he said.


Cowan highlighted the Grow Blue Partnership, an initiative led by the University of Rhode Island. Its members created the 2030 Blue Economy Action Plan, which outlines numerous measures and strategies to stimulate ocean technology development and the blue economy.

“The Ocean Tech Hub is focused on undersea autonomy and artificial intelligence-enabled vehicles and sensors,” Cowan said. “The blue economy is really leveraging our ocean and our natural geography to build an economic base and provide jobs (while) ... addressing climate change and sea (level) rise.”

“Ocean Tech Hub strives to make Southeastern New England a global leader in ocean technology,” wrote Matthew Touchette, director of public affairs for R.I. Commerce, in an email to The Herald.

Touchette added that the OTH designation encourages investments from outside actors, such as venture capital and private equity firms. “This funding ripples through the local economy, creating jobs and fostering growth, benefiting the overall public.”

As a member of the consortium, Brown is “providing strategic advice on the effort, identifying additional assets, partners and constituencies, recommending research to highlight the key technology focus areas and offering overall guidance on the application,” Albert Dahlberg, the University’s assistant vice president of government and community relations, wrote in an email to The Herald. 

Dahlberg also shared that the University has established a new research center for the Mechanics of Undersea Science and Engineering. The center aims “to carry out focused, foundational research targeting the technical challenges in undersea mechanics, which includes leading in the mechanics research on undersea vehicles and platforms,” he wrote.

“With a growing research focus on ocean engineering, science and technology, Brown is excited to collaborate with partners to support the commercialization of new discoveries, the creation of new jobs locally and the strength of the state’s blue economy,” President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 said in a press release from Governor Dan McKee’s office.

Cowan also hopes that the blue economy projects will create new, high-paying jobs to keep Brown graduates in Rhode Island.

“This designation is a boon to our momentum,” Touchette wrote, noting that the Tech Hub designation allows the OTH to apply for a Phase 2 Implementation Grant from the EDA, which can provide up to $70 million in funding for the execution of blue economy initiatives. 

“Ocean technology and the ocean economy has been part of the innovation ecosystem in Rhode Island for decades,” McKee said in a press release. “This designation validates Rhode Island’s national position in this growing global market.”


Tom Li

Tom Li is a senior staff writer covering environment and crime & justice. He is from Pleasanton, California, and is concentrating in Economics, International & Public Affairs and French & Francophone Studies. He is an avid RIPTA enthusiast and enjoys taking (and criticizing) personality tests in his free time.

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