Bullish on Rhody innovation

In August, Scott Jensen, director of the R.I. Department of Labor & Training, called manufacturing a “bright spot” in the state economy. Jensen and Donna Murray, Rhode Island’s chief labor statistician, noted that 42,300 manufacturing jobs in July were the most in the sector since March 2009. This is due not only to the resiliency of our legacy manufacturers, but also largely to the focus on advanced manufacturing as an industry, which benefits from innovation programs throughout the state.

There are some significant programs in the state that leverage the “innovation” tagline. The Manufacturing Innovation Challenge, a Polaris MEP program funded through the U.S. Department of Defense that offers a competitive opportunity for R.I. manufacturers to access funding, expertise and hands-on design and product development, met with an overflow of interest and applications.

Similarly, the Innovation Voucher program, which lets businesses with fewer than 500 employees unlock R&D capacity in Rhode Island, is demonstrating an unprecedented level of engagement from our manufacturers.

Polaris MEP works exclusively with R.I. manufacturers, so I get to see many of the fantastic products that are made in our state. Composite products heading for space, textile products that will be catching aircraft, military pins to be worn by those protecting our country, defibrillator pads and superfoods that are saving lives. All of these companies are using new and innovative technologies to advance their products, their people and, ultimately, our state.

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo declared October Rhode Island Manufacturing Month. And Oct. 7 was national Manufacturing Day.

Yeah – I’m bullish on R.I. manufacturing, but even more on the innovative manufacturers behind it.

Christian Cowan is director of Polaris MEP.

[Post originally appeared as guest column on Providence Business News]

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