PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Raimondo administration is moving ahead with plans to use $20 million in newly approved bond money to create an “innovation campus” affiliated with the University of Rhode Island.

This week the R.I. Commerce Corp. voted to hire HR&A Advisors Inc. to serve as its consultant on the early stages of the project, which voters backed in last month’s election. The $98,000 contract with HR&A will be partly funded by URI, according to Commerce spokesman Matt Sheaf.

“They will be helping us design the competition, follow national best practices and do outreach,” Sheaff said.

The innovation campus was an idea Gov. Gina Raimondo put forward during her 2014 campaign, suggesting it could build links between researchers and businesses which would spur economic development. Her aides have cited South Carolina’s International Center for Automotive Research at Clemson University as one model.

The idea was also suggested in a Brookings Institution report on Rhode Island’s economy commissioned by Raimondo earlier this year. It proposed creating “one or two industry-university-laboratory tech collaboration centers … focused on promising advanced industry technology opportunities for Rhode Islands.” Brookings offered the old I-195 land in Providence and Aquidneck Island as suitable locations.

“The placement of concentrated new technology development work in urban centers adjacent to universities, existing research centers, and talent concentrations will upgrade the state’s innovation enterprise, push it toward critical mass, and place the state in the vanguard of innovation practice,” Brookings argued.

Lawmakers agreed to put $20 million in state bond money for the innovation campus on last month’s ballot, with the stipulation that the new campus had to be affiliated with URI. Voters backed the request last month when they approved Question 4, which also included money to finish URI’s new engineering school.

Commerce documents envision matching the $20 million with private funds “to spur the creation of one or more university-business innovation centers,” but many of the details remain to be worked out. Raimondo has said the effort will be a key priority for her in 2017. An advisory board may be created to oversee the process.Ted Nesi ( covers politics and the economy for He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram