UMaine’s Renee Kelly named ‘Woman to Watch’ by Mainebiz

University of Maine assistant vice president of innovation and economic development Renee Kelly has been named a 2022 Woman to Watch by Mainebiz. The designation recognizes top-notch women executives, women whose daily work strengthens their organizations, and by extension, Maine’s economy.

Kelly, who joined UMaine in 1997 and assumed her current role in 2016, develops strategic partnerships and initiatives that promote economic growth and talent development in Maine. She also leads the innovation and entrepreneurship support activities of the Office of Innovation and Economic Development (OIED), including the Foster Center for Innovation, MIRTA Accelerator program, UMaine’s I-Corps site and business incubation programs.

As a founding member of the leadership team for Blackstone Accelerates Growth (now Maine Accelerates Growth or MxG), an initiative to create a thriving ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation in Maine, Kelly led the creation of the award-winning Innovate for Maine Fellows program. Now in its 11th year, Innovate for Maine connects college students with high-growth companies in Maine for internship experiences. Since its inception, the program has matched more than 225 students from 37 different colleges and universities with internships and project work at more than 220 companies. These internships have led many participants to permanent roles with their host companies and fueled the growth of entrepreneurship in Maine. A recent survey of Innovate for Maine alumni revealed that 70% of respondents were living in Maine and another 10% currently live outside of Maine but plan to return as their careers progress. Nearly 20% of program alumni have started their own companies.

Kelly is an active member of Maine’s broader innovation ecosystem, serving as a member of the State of Maine’s Economic Development Strategy Team’s Innovation Subcommittee, a member of the MxG leadership team, and a member of the Big Gig steering committee. She serves on the board of First National Bank and previously served as chair of the board of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce. Her interests include the importance of networks in innovation and the history of innovation in Maine. Prior to joining the university, she developed new training products for Manpower of Connecticut, worked for a financial services startup in San Diego and served as an aide to then U.S. Rep. Olympia Snowe. 

Kelly is one of five 2022 Women to Watch. Also honored are Mufalo Chitam, executive director, Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition; Laurie Lachance, president, Thomas College; Kristine Logan, executive director, Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority; and Kate McAleer, founder, owner and CEO, Bixby Chocolate. The group will be celebrated at an awards ceremony and networking reception at the Westin Portland Harborview Hotel on Sept. 15.