Start-Up Pre-Accelerator LaunchURI Kicks Off the RISE-UP Ideation Studio Program for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at URI

Aug 28, 2023 | Press

RIHub & 401 Tech Bridge completed the inaugural summer pre-accelerator program, LaunchURI, at the University of Rhode Island (URI).  LaunchURI will serve as the pilot for the broader 401 Tech Bridge’s RISE-UP Ideation Studio program. LaunchURI and Ideation Studio are funded through the Resilient Innovative Sustainable Economies via University Partnerships initiative by the United States Office of Naval Research (ONR). The RISE-UP program aims to accelerate the translation of nascent intellectual property (IP) into products and university affiliated ventures, and to stimulate innovation & entrepreneurship in potential “dual-use” technologies at the strategically located ocean adjacent and focused Universities of Rhode Island, Alaska and Hawai’i.

For LaunchURI, five students representing the College of EngineeringCollege of BusinessCollege of Arts & Sciences and Graduate School of Oceanography at URI were selected through competitive applications to participate in the inaugural cohort:

  • Christine de Silva (BlueMBA) is the co-founder of Juice Robotics. Her work specializes in compact, pressure-tolerant, durable, scalable and affordable marine technology and associated data modeling ideal ocean exploration, research, and defense.
  • Michael Molinski’s (MBA) is the head of R&D at AUDIANCE which tackles key battery issues such as limited life, operational limits, and safety through innovative gel polymer electrolyte (GPE) battery technology.
  • Chan Young Koh (PhD Computer Science) is engineering safer sidewalks through the ‘Sidewalk Intelligence’ project that includes technologies such as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) Scanning, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), depth cameras, and Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Charles E. Johnson Jr (BS/BA) is the founder of Nhuad – a single handed video game controller designed to be accessible to persons with limited or no functionality in one arm.
  • Kotachi Liu (PhD) is creating MesoLink – a decentralized system of control for multi-node underwater vehicle systems that uses local communication to influence global behavior.

The inaugural LaunchURI cohort exceeded our already high expectations” said Peter Rumsey, RISEUP program executive, experienced entrepreneur, and Chief Development Officer at The URI Research Foundation. “Using proven Lean Launchpad methodologies and tools, we are able to coach motivated students on an easy to understand and repeatable step-by-step disciplined entrepreneurship process that brings their innovative ideas to life, by discovering their ideal target customers, creating their scalable business models, and then iterating their minimally viable products–often also coupled with creating new and/or leveraging existing Intellectual Property. Furthermore, experienced mentors and subject matter experts are then able to help our student team create products and services, find them resources and capital, and even launch their own new start-up ventures.”

LaunchURI powered by RIHub is designed as a precursor to RISE-UP’s Ideation Studio and Patents to Products programs, both of which will launch their pilot cohorts in Fall of 2023 at URI. From a programmatic standpoint, Annette Tonti, Managing Director of RIHub remarked, “As a serial entrepreneur myself, I know that building companies requires both an understanding of the process as well as a connected network of support including knowledgeable mentors, coaches and subject matter experts. We were inspired by this cohort and will continuously support the Ideation Studio program ongoing. Those who complete the program will continue to have full access to all RIHub programs as they move on from the University and pursue building their ventures that solve global problems.” Through LaunchURI, participants are encouraged to approach translating their research to solve pressing problems for real customers through Lean Launchpad methodologies. Participants are provided with real-time customized and interactive lectures, site visits and workshops to build a sound business plan that includes financial feasibility and customer discovery.

This integration of business acumen with engineering endeavors is at the core of RISE-UP’s strategic plan in boosting the innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem of Rhode Island. On successful completion of the LaunchURI program, participants are invited to continue developing their research within the RISE-UP sub-programs offered at URI. The programs create opportunities for the aspirational researchers to gain access to training, mentoring, raising capital and networking opportunities while working on their graduate and postgraduate degrees. RISE-UP is welcoming applications for its programs via the 401 Tech Bridge website.

RISE-UP (Resilient, Innovative, Sustainable Economies via University Partnerships) is a multi-year initiative funded by a 2.4 million grant from ONR. A tri-state venture, RISE-UP is a collaboration between the University of Alaska, University of Hawaii, and University of Rhode Island to develop commercialized scalable technologies as well as build a workforce for the Navy and industries of the future.

About 401 Tech Bridge

401 Tech Bridge is a non-profit economic development organization that serves as a facilitator for companies that are developing the latest advanced materials, technologies, and products, enabling business growth, and speeding the process of finding commercial and dual-use applications for technologies. 401 Tech Bridge is a business unit of The URI Research Foundation. More information on 401 Tech Bridge can be found here.

About RIHub

RIHub is the economic engine for startup growth in Rhode Island. RIHub connects high potential growth startups with experts, mentors, investors, corporations, and a community to enable their businesses to grow on a global scale. Supported by key partners including Brown University, IBM, University of Rhode Island, URI Research Foundation, MassChallenge, and RICommerce, RIHub enables and accelerates entrepreneurial ventures that have a high potential for growth. We provide incubation space, mentorship, investor connections, an online community portal and numerous programs for growth. Join us to find your pathway to growth and success. To learn more, please visit

RIHub and 401 Tech Bridge are Rhode Island Innovation Campuses that provide the facilities and programs necessary to foster economic growth, technical collaboration, and educational advancements, to serve the residents of Rhode Island and innovate industries to support growth and prosperity in our economy.

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