New England schools advance in federal contest for $100M

December 14, 2021 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Three New England universities are finalists in a federal contest to get up to $100 million in pandemic relief funds to rebuild communities.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo announced 60 finalists Monday for the $1 billion “Build Back Better Regional Challenge,” including the University of Rhode Island, Northeastern University and the University of Maine system. Chosen from about 530 applicants, the finalists each receive about $500,000 to develop their proposals.

Up to half of the regional coalitions will get up to $100 million each to implement their projects that support an industry sector.

The URI Research Foundation proposed working with the state of Rhode Island and a regional team to transform and grow the state’s “blue economy” by advancing new ocean technology developments and creating jobs in shipping, defense, marine trades, ocean-based renewables, tourism, aquaculture and fisheries.

Northeastern University proposed leading a coalition across Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to support a biomanufacturing cluster and create jobs for underserved, distressed regions throughout the Northeast. The University of Maine is a finalist for its proposal to transform the next generation of forest bioproducts.

Raimondo, the former Rhode Island governor, said the challenge aims to “supercharge local economies and increase American competitiveness around the globe.”

Also in New England, the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region is a finalist for its proposal to bolster the region’s offshore wind industry. Twelve of the finalists are in coal communities. The U.S. Economic Development Administration pledged to help coal communities recover from the pandemic and create new jobs and opportunities.