Veteran manufacturing executive named director of Polaris MEP
CHRISTIAN COWAN, who has served as an executive in the IT networking, energy and textile industries during his 20-year career, has replaced Harsha Prakash as director of the Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The University of Rhode Island has named Christian Cowan the director of the Polaris Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the statewide nonprofit formerly known as the Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service.
Cowan, a 20-year veteran of the manufacturing industry, most recently served as director of global product management for computer network technology company Opengear. Previously, he held executive positions in the IT networking, energy and textile sectors, including as vice president of marketing for Asure Software, product manager for A123 Systems and product line director for American Power Conversion.
Cowan holds an engineering degree from Villanova University and an MBA from URI.
James K. Petell, executive director of the URI Research Foundation that oversees Polaris MEP, said Cowan’s breadth of engineering and business experience made him an ideal candidate for the position.
“He brings a dimension to Polaris that complements prior capabilities with our new strategies to use URI innovations and the skills of its faculty and students to stimulate new growth for Rhode Island manufacturers,” said Petell.
Cowan replaces Harsha Prakash as director of Polaris MEP, who stepped down effective Aug. 4 to pursue other opportunities, Cowan said. He and Prakash worked closely together during the month of July to ensure a smooth leadership transition.
One of 58 manufacturing extension programs across the United States, and the manufacturing industry partner to the R.I. Governor’s Workforce Board, Polaris MEP provides on-site training and custom services including lean manufacturing workshops, ISO certification and training grants to help manufacturing companies in Rhode Island grow their businesses and operate more efficiently.
Cowan said his first priority in his new role will be to leverage state and federal resources to develop new programs for the manufacturing community, including innovation engineering, supply-chain optimization and specialized support for family-owned companies.
“I’m excited to bring my broad business experience to support local manufacturers,” he said. “I want Polaris to be top of mind when manufacturers are thinking about how to achieve operational excellence. This encompasses businesses looking to grow, restructure or optimize their operations. I want us to be the go-to experts for whatever assistance they may need.”