The Department of Defense has opened up millions of dollars in grant funding to a research consortium in Rhode Island that will fund cybersecurity and supply chain research for the maritime industry.
Earlier this month, the department designated six new Defense Manufacturing Communities across the country. The program, authorized through the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, is designed to fund long-term investments in local businesses that work on national security technologies or innovation.
The money is awarded to joint ventures made up of academic institutions, defense contractors or associations, non-profits or state and local governments. One of the consortiums selected this year is led by the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation, which is proposing to use up to $5 million in federal grant funding “to address weaknesses in the maritime defense industrial base through strengthening workforce training or retraining or recruitment and retention, and expanding small business assistance to support automation and robotics and cyber resiliency.”
“The project will provide a minimum of 50 small business assistance grants, educate and train 675 students and workers using Manufacturing Innovation Institute enhanced offerings, and launch an innovative Education to Assessment model to enhance assessment capability and supplier matching for DoD supply chain companies,” reads a project description on DoD’s website.
In a phone call, a representative from the University of Rhode Island identified Erik Brine, director for defense research and development initiatives and operations at the university, as the lead for the project. Brine did not immediately return an emailed request for comment and further details on the project.
According to DoD, the department has doled out $50 million in funding for the program over the last two years to 11 defense manufacturing communities, 1,350 businesses and 29,000 workers. The funding has gone to develop 11 new defense technologies, make improvements for 23 more and provide cybersecurity assistance to nearly 400 companies.
In addition to the URI Research Foundation, the consortium partners include academic and research institutions like Polaris MEP, 401 Tech Bridge, Brown University and the Rhode Island Department of Education, defense contractors General Dynamics Electric Boat, Raytheon, and military institutions like the U.S. Naval Warfare College and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, among others.
In a statement, Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., co-founder of the congressional cybersecurity caucus, said the grants would benefit both national security and his home state economy.
“The University of Rhode Island Research Foundation’s designation as a Defense Manufacturing Community will attract millions of dollars in federal investments to advance our national security, develop our workforce, and drive Rhode Island’s economy forward,” said Langevin. “I can’t wait to see how this grant funding will help our defense manufacturing sector to expand its cutting-edge work on issues of robotics, cybersecurity and other emerging technologies.”