Rhode Island School of Design Executive Education is accepting applications for its third round of cohorts in its Design for Manufacturing Innovation Certificate Program.

The program was developed between RISD EE, Polaris MEP and the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association in an effort to equip senior managers, thinkers and leaders in the design manufacturing industry with the competitive advantage that comes from design. It utilizes consultations from Commerce RI and designers and manufacturers across the country. Concepts learned during the program, “combined with entrepreneurial application, will help leaders in the manufacturing sector uncover new business development opportunities and management strategies for growth,” the program’s website states.

Lizzi Ross, Associate Director, RISD Executive Education. Photo Credit: Lizzi Ross

RISD Executive Education Associate Director Lizzi Ross explained what exactly the program aims to do in a recent interview. “[It’s] customized for stronger manufacturing,” she said. “We developed the curriculum … and competed for a federal grant we’re delivering on,” which they went on to win.

The grant she mentioned is from the U.S. Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment. Ultimately, it’s “part of a $3.3 million Commerce RI project with $2.9 million in federal funding,” a press release states.

“The larger intent is, we are one of four vendors that are delivering on this grant, focused on catalyzing defense manufacturing in Rhode Island,” Ross added. “The grant was designed and given to Rhode Island for that purpose.”

This grant also allows manufacturers at small- to mid-sized companies who have 10 percent of defense-related revenue to be in the running for free tuition for the certificate program, although those companies who do not have these qualifications are still encouraged to apply nonetheless.

Ross explained that the project, launched last fall, has been in development since the summer of 2015. Since then, two groups of cohorts have graduated from the program. “This group of people now has a new mindset and new skillset to catalyze innovation in new ways,” Ross said. “[The program] made that personal connection at high levels — that’s one of the outcomes that they all responded to.”

Cohorts are intentionally small, to foster that greater connection and a deeper level of work with peers and the community, she continued. Beyond the aforementioned outliers for applicants, there is no one “type” of participant. “It’s a pretty diverse [student body],” Ross said.

Courses are a combination of both in-person classes on the RISD campus and online, and include topics like “Design Thinking + Deisgn Process” and “Material, Systems, and Digitial Integration,” among others.

The program is free for the aforementioned manufacturers who meet the program’s requriements, and runs at $3,000 for others. While there isn’t yet a financial aid proponent, Ross said that the certificate is bang for students’ buck. “I do think for the learning they’re getting, [there’s] incredible quality as well as the richness,” Ross said. [It’s] a really competitive price.”

Applications for the October to January cohort close Thursday, 9/21.