Rhode Island Foundation Begins Accepting Applications for $300,000 Innovation Fellowships

PROVIDENCE, RI – The Rhode Island Foundation is now accepting applications for the 2014 Rhode Island Innovation Fellowships, an annual program to stimulate solutions to the state’s challenges.

Made possible through the vision and generosity of philanthropists Letitia and John Carter, the program will award two applicants up to $300,000 over three years to develop, test and implement innovative ideas that have the potential to dramatically improve any area of life in Rhode Island.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity for those with bold ideas. Thanks to the foresight of Letitia and John Carter, big thinkers now have the chance to convert their concepts to action,” 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 longstanding, intractable challenges.

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

The program is designed to stimulate solutions by Rhode Islanders to Rhode Island challenges. 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. 13. The application and answers to frequently asked questions are posted atwww.rifoundation.org/innovation.

Steinberg will chair the selection committee. The other members are David Dooley, president of the University of Rhode Island; Ann-Marie Harrington, president of Embolden; Charlie Kroll, president and CEO of Andera Inc., Marie Langlois, retired managing director of Washington Trust Investors; Lisa Utman Randall, executive director of the Jamestown Arts Center; and Don Stanford, chief innovation officer of GTECH.

The one-page, initial application asks applicants to summarize their proposed innovation in no more than 150 words and todescribe how it would benefit Rhode Islanders. In late January 2014, the 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.

This will be the third round of funding. Previous rounds generated more than 600 applications. Soren Ryherd and Allan Tear received the inaugural grants in 2012.

Ryherd’s “The Retail Project” has created three on-line stores to date, Felix Chien, a retailer of upscale fashion for dogs; Urbilis, a concept built around high-design products for the urban gardener; and Slumbersome, which offers an array of bedding, masks and other products for people with insomnia. The goal is to open at least one so-called brick and mortar store in 2014. Follow his progress at www.retailprojectri.co.

Tear is building platforms to help entrepreneurs launch start-ups in sectors such as art and design, food and beverage and advanced manufacturing. Follow his progress on www.rallyri.org.

The 2013 fellows are Adrienne Gagnon and Dr. Lynn Taylor.

Gagnon’s “Innovation by Design” proposal will help foster the next generation of Rhode Island innovators by sending out mobile design labs to parks, school yards and vacant lots in Rhode Island’s core cities in order to engage students in free, hands-on design programs that will improve our communities.

Taylor’s project, “Rhode Island Defeats Hep C,” aims to make Rhode Island the first state to eradicate the Hepatitis C virus infection using a comprehensive approach that includes increasing awareness, rapid testing, linkage to health care, building infrastructure for a sustainable model and evaluation.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island.  In 2012, the Foundation made grants of more than $30.4 million to organizations addressing Rhode Island’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 our state reach its true potential. For more information, visitwww.rifoundation.org.


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