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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI and Brown Secure Federal Grant To Stimulate Life Sciences Research In Rhode Island

Media Contact: URI Communications, 401-874-2116

Sen. Reed, Sen. Chafee and Gov. Carcieri support the National Science Foundation program that will provide as much as $4.5 million annually in new research funds; all colleges and universities eligible for grant dollars

Providence, R.I. -- February 20, 2004 -- The University of Rhode Island and Brown University have teamed up to secure a major federal grant through the National Science Foundation that will stimulate life science research at the stateís 11 institutions of higher education promoting life science-based economic development in Rhode Island.

A $198,835 National Science Foundation planning grant is the first step in making Rhode Islandís colleges and universities eligible for up to $4.5 million in annual research infrastructure funding. The grant will also make it easier for researchers in the state to qualify for additional NSF research funding.

"Outstanding life sciences research is being conducted in Rhode Island, but until now, we have received less than our fair share of available federal research dollars," said U.S. Senator Jack Reed. "The National Science Foundation has created a means for correcting that inequity and our leading schools have organized to take full advantage."

"This program has tremendous value for Rhode Island. Not only will it foster additional scientific research at our colleges and universities -- the very core of our economic strength -- but every state dollar invested will bring two federal dollars in return," said Governor Donald L. Carcieri. "I will soon be asking the General Assembly to support this important economic development program with an investment of $1.5 million. I look forward to working with the leadership of the General Assembly to ensure their support."

"We have strong scientists and researchers in Rhode Island who do great work in life sciences such as biotechnology. Increased federal funding will help them push the envelope of their research, increasing the prospects for scientific breakthroughs, exciting health and environmental improvements and protections, and significant economic development," added Senator Lincoln Chafee.

The National Science Foundation is providing this grant under the auspices of their Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) initiative designed to assist those states that have historically received less than 0.7 percent of NSF research funding annually. The program aims to fulfill NSFís mandate to promote scientific progress nationwide.

"This is a huge step for Rhode Island that will substantially advance research and training capacity in the life sciences and fulfill the Stateís vision for URI and Brown to serve as engines for Rhode Islandís economic growth," said Jeff Seemann, dean of the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the NSF director for the Research Innovation for Rhode Island (RI2) project. "The NSF is confirming we have a realistic plan for making Rhode Island a major player in life science oriented research and technology development, and they are willing to back us with millions of dollars per year to accomplish that goal."

"Brown is proud to have been a part of creating this unique partnership among all of the institutions of higher education in Rhode Island," said Andy van Dam, vice president for research at Brown University. "We all recognize that our individual success depends upon working together, and we believe that we are creating a model not only for research in the life sciences, but also for the future of academic partnerships in Rhode Island."

Additional partner institutions include Bryant College, Community College of Rhode Island, Johnson & Wales University, New England Institute of Technology, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, Salve Regina University, and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.

The planning grant, secured in part because URI and Brown have demonstrated a $180 million combined commitment to the construction of new life science research and education buildings, funds an 18-month planning process to develop a full NSF EPSCoR program, including establishment of an NSF EPSCoR governing committee. Governor Carcieri has appointed this committee, to be chaired by Paul Choquette, co-chair of the Rhode Island Economic Policy Council.

Governor Carcieri has appointed a Rhode Island Research Infrastructure Committee of distinguished academic, government and business leaders to manage the grant development process. Committee members include:

Paul J. Choquette, Chairman and CEO of Gilbane Construction who will Chair the committee, Co-Chair, Thomas M. Ryan, Chairman and CEO of CVS,
Co-Chair, Dr. Jeffrey Seemann, Project Director, Rhode Island EPSCoR, Dean, College of the Environment and Life Sciences Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology, Director, RI Agricultural Experiment Station and RI Cooperative Extension University of Rhode Island, Co-Chair, Dr. Andy van Dam, Vice President for Research, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., University Professor of Technology and Education Professor of Computer Science Brown University, Dr. Michael Zavada, Chair, Department of Biology, Providence College, who will serve a Chairman of the Academic Committee, responsible for coordinating the work of the 11 institutions. Dr. Richard H. Nadolink Chief Technology Officer Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Nancy Langrall, Policy Director for Senator Reed, Saul Kaplan, Director Business Development Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, Dr. Thomas J. Rockett, Member of the Board of Governors of Higher Education Vice Provost Emeritus, University of Rhode Island.

In July 2004, the Rhode Island institutions will submit a Research Infrastructure Improvement Grant that will generate $9 million in federal funds over three years for state-of-the-art laboratory research equipment, core biotechnology facilities, and to help attract outstanding scientists to Rhode Island. Future grants may focus on obtaining equipment for other areas of scientific research, like engineering or the physical sciences. Each Research Infrastructure Improvement Grant requires a 50 percent match of $1.5 million per year from the State.

In addition to the annual infrastructure funds, now that Rhode Island has become a National Science Foundation EPSCoR state, grant proposals submitted to NSF by researchers in the state can qualify for an additional pool of research dollars that are not available to other scientists.

NSF staff will also begin making outreach visits to Rhode Island to acquaint area researchers with NSF priorities, programs and policies, and to acquaint themselves with Rhode Island-based researchers and their facilities. This should result in grant proposals that are looked upon more favorably in the review process and ultimately increase the ability of Rhode Island researchers to compete successfully for federal and private grants.