In choosing a new name, the former Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Service looked to the North Star to project a sense of guidance and strategic direction for the state’s manufacturers.
Now called Polaris MEP, the organization formerly known as RIMES is evolving into a resource for companies looking to expand, innovate and find new markets, in addition to streamlining operations or training workers.
“We are helping manufacturers grow, instead of the more-limited focus of helping them to be more efficient with their existing services and processes,” said James K. Petell, executive director of the University of Rhode Island Research Foundation, which oversees Polaris. “Now the focus is on developing new products and new markets.”
One of 58 local programs across the country funded by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology to help small manufacturers, RIMES’ recent evolution is tied to its new connection to the University of Rhode Island.
Formerly an independent nonprofit, RIMES drew the attention of URI President David M. Dooley, who had worked with the Montana Manufacturing Extension Center while an administrator at Montana State University.
When federal officials running the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program began pushing the local centers toward more innovation-focused missions, Dooley thought a relationship with URI similar to Montana’s could make it happen, Petell said.
In January 2013, URI first applied for Extension Partnership grants and over the summer RIMES was officially brought under the control of the URI Research Foundation, the school’s nonprofit affiliate for commercializing university research and encouraging faculty entrepreneurship.
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