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Business Beat: Christian Cowan new executive director, URI Research Foundation

Christian Cowan, a highly respected expert on economic and workforce development, has been appointed the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation’s first full-time executive director. Peter Snyder, URI Research Foundation board chair and URI vice president for research and economic development, made the announcement today.

“Christian has been an invaluable member of the foundation’s senior leadership team, and I cannot think of anyone more well-prepared for this important role,” Snyder said. “During this last year alone, the URI Research Foundation’s activities have led to more than $21 million in new capital investment in the state, nearly 800 manufacturing jobs retained, and hundreds of meaningful corporate engagements to bring new investment to the University and Rhode Island. The research foundation is poised for tremendous growth and even greater impact, and Christian is uniquely qualified to lead these efforts.” 

Cowan, who previously served as the research foundation’s chief operating officer, has substantial expertise in Rhode Island economic and workforce development. His private industry experience includes semiconductor equipment manufacturing, textile manufacturing, and software design, including business model and power electronics. He has global experience implementing technology advancement and manufacturing operations to conduct research, lead business development, and execute corporate merger and acquisition activities. 

The work of the URI Research Foundation is vital to Rhode Island’s statewide economy. The foundation engages with URI research projects and initiatives, the manufacturing community, and other regional resources and partnerships to accelerate innovation, advancement, and entrepreneurship in Rhode Island’s commercial and technological ecosystem.

Leveraging the successes of Polaris MEP and 401 Tech Bridge—both component organizations of the foundation supporting business development—the URI Research Foundation is expanding its partnerships locally and internationally in growing areas of interest, including offshore renewable wind energy, local healthy food supply, and a robust Blue Economy for the state and region. The research foundation has major impacts on economic and workforce development in innovation, defense, ports and shipping, aquaculture and fisheries, textiles, and technology. 

In his new role with the research foundation, Cowan will oversee technology evaluation teams, expand business development resources to increase industry engagement, develop and expand unique job-growth programs, and execute programs specifically targeted to commercialize state-of-the-art technology on behalf of the University.

Under Cowan’s leadership, the URI Research Foundation stewards millions of dollars in sponsored research and economic development grant funding, supports URI’s engagement with industry partners, and assists companies and enhances workforce development opportunities in the state, particularly for underserved communities.

“I’m truly honored to lead an organization that I have had the pleasure to work in for the past eight years,” said Cowan. “The URI Research Foundation has evolved into a catalytic organization with tremendous impacts from component organizations 401 Tech Bridge, Polaris MEP, and URI Ventures in the technology acceleration and manufacturing communities. I look forward to better defining our role in the regional ecosystem and increasing our positive impact on the economy, URI, technology-based industries, and opportunities for all communities.”

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