Partnership with anchor institutions will leverage core strengths through strategic collaboration to drive economic growth & development
September 10, 2018
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza today joined representatives from anchor institutions throughout Providence at the WaterFire Arts Center to announce the creation of the Urban Innovation Partnership (UIP). This partnership is a critical component of the City’s Urban Innovation Vision which aims to prioritize two innovation districts, one in the Jewelry District and another along the Woonasquatucket River Corridor, by leveraging public and private investments to support inclusive economic growth and locally-generated innovation in those areas. It also prioritizes Smart City investments city-wide.
This announcement comes a year after the first convening of a working group comprised of representatives of the City and the anchor institutions. Since inception, the City of Providence and the partners have been working to define opportunities for collaboration that leverage the core strengths of each institution and advance the City’s Urban Innovation Vision. Cities across the country are exploring ways to more thoughtfully partner with anchor institutions, and the UIP seeks to replicate a similar model in Providence to drive economic growth and development.
“Through the Urban Innovation Partnership we’re making a commitment to work collaboratively because we know that Providence’s future success requires that our diverse anchor institutions join us at the table,” said Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “Our city has so many existing resources and strengths and to truly advance them we must work shoulder to shoulder to support innovation and job growth in our capital city.”
Providence’s Urban Innovation Partnership and the associated Urban Innovation Vision focuses on two innovation districts and a city-wide smart cities plan. The innovation district located in the Woonasquatucket Corridor is geographically centered on the Woonasquatucket River and has a particular focus on art, design, maker and food businesses, both existing and new to the city. The Innovation and Design District being developed through state and local investment on the former highway I-195 and surrounding land is focused on life sciences, design, and innovation. Lastly, the vision focuses on positioning Providence as a Smart City and using the Creative Capital’s public space as a canvas for emerging and demonstrative projects.
“Brown and our partner institutions are pleased to be a part of this united effort to grow the Innovation Economy in Providence in a way that serves all the constituencies of this diverse city,” Brown President Christina Paxson said. “We are committed to contributing to these initiatives in line with our respective academic and service missions, recognizing the important role of collaboration in our shared success.”
To advance this Vision, the City issued a request for proposal (RFP) for an Urban Innovation Districts Maker Incubator Program Manager. The City recently awarded the bid to the Venture Café Foundation, based in Boston, who will be collaborating with the various institutions that make up the Urban Innovation Partnership to establish a vibrant and sustainable innovation ecosystem. With partnerships in tech, healthcare, innovation, and key institutions within Rhode Island, Venture Café will work with the Urban Innovation Partners to support infrastructure development, identify milestone projects and create meaningful programming between institutions and residents. Under this directive, the UIP has the potential to not only build the local economy, but to become a major regional power in private investment, tech, and innovation.
“We are honored to have been asked to be the Urban Innovation Manager by the City of Providence. We look forward to working with the City, the Anchor Institutions, the State and the other entrepreneurial-focused groups in Providence and Rhode Island to devise a programming plan to ensure that anyone with an idea has the opportunity to succeed,” said Kevin Wiant, Executive Director of the Venture Café Foundation.
Currently, the Urban Innovation Partnership consists of:
Mayor Jorge Elorza; Co-chair Christina Paxson, President of Brown University; Co-chair Frank Sánchez, President of Rhode Island College; Dr. Jim Fanale, President, CEO & CCO of Care New England; Mim Runey, President of Johnson & Wales University; Dr. Tim Babineau, President & CEO of Lifespan; Brian Shanley, President of Providence College; Rosanne Somerson, President of the Rhode Island School of Design, Andrew Workman, Interim President of Roger Williams University; Meghan Hughes, President of the Community College of Rhode Island; and Katharine Flynn, Executive Director for the Business Engagement Center of the University of Rhode Island. As this partnership develops and with guidance from Café Venture and the newly-appointed Director of Strategic Partnerships and Economic Advancement, Jenn Steinfeld, additional partners may be added. With twenty years of experience in organizational and program management, Steinfeld will play a key role in assuring that this new developing economy is equitable and design based.
“With the pace at which our city’s demographics are changing, the most successful institutions will be those that embrace and further a culture of equity, inclusion and innovation,” said Rhode Island College President Frank Sánchez. “Rhode Island College is proud to partner with the City of Providence as an anchor institution to help drive economic growth, advance the mission of higher education, and ensure opportunities for collaboration with civic and community leaders in this endeavor.”
Over the next year, the UIP will work to identify collaborative projects for the partners to work on, create governing infrastructure for work going forward and support innovative programming and place-making opportunities throughout the Creative Capital.
To assist with the planning, UIP will draw from Venture Café’s expertise in creating diverse and inclusive ecosystems of entrepreneurship and innovation in Greater Boston, programs implemented in other cities by Venture Café’s network and elsewhere, and the resources already available in the City of Providence. The Venture Café Foundation operates three sites in Boston: Venture Café Kendall, inside the Cambridge Innovation Center, which hosts the area’s largest weekly free innovation community-building events; District Hall, the first civic innovation center providing meeting and workspaces for the community and hosting regular events and programming; and the Roxbury Innovation Center, a neighborhood innovation center focused on community entrepreneurship and economic development within the Dudley Square and greater Roxbury community.
Beyond holding programs within the neighborhoods, Venture Café works to provide cross-pollination, hosting residents of each community at events in the others to drive equity and inclusion across the innovation and entrepreneurship sectors. Venture Café will launch its weekly community-building events and District Hall in the Wexford Innovation Center in the Innovation and Design District in 2019 as part of the 195 Commission development plan.