Cowan appointed as URI Research Foundation’s new executive director

SOUTH KINGSTOWN – Christian Cowan, who has served as the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation’s chief operating officer, has been appointed as the foundation’s first executive director, the university announced Thursday.

Cowan, URI said, has longstanding experience and expertise in the state’s economic workforce development. Before joining URI, he was executive director for Polaris MEP, a nonprofit that provides programs for Rhode Island’s manufacturing industry. He was also the executive director of 401 Tech Bridge, an organization that helps develop talent pipelines and bridge gaps within research and development.

URI said that Cowan, in his new role with the research foundation, will oversee technology evaluation teams, expand business development resources to increase industry engagement and develop job-growth programming. Cowan, the university said, will also execute programs that are targeted to commercialize state-of-the-art technology on behalf of URI.

The university also said the research foundation is expanding its partnerships both locally and internationally in various areas, including offshore renewable wind energy, local healthy food supply and a strong Blue Economy for the state and region.

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“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,” Cowan said in a statement. “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.”

Peter Snyder, URI Research Foundation board chair and URI vice president for research and economic development, said in a statement Thursday that the 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. He feels the foundation is poised for further growth and “an even greater impact” under Cowan’s leadership.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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