Making business connections

Published October 23, 2017

Ari Cohen.

Ari Cohen

Ari Cohen’s role as director of business and trade development for the Israel Economic Mission in Chicago is a natural fit for his background. With a bachelor’s degree in international relations and master’s degree in microbiology, he introduces expansion-seeking Israeli life sciences startups to American companies and helps them navigate the business landscape.

The 30-year-old was less than thrilled when his matchmaking duties were broadened to assist manufacturing-related suppliers.

“I was a little out of my comfort zone,” he admitted.   

Cohen knew that having a grasp on the advanced manufacturing sector, and where it is heading, was paramount to sparking any meaningful conversations with Israeli clients and their potential American partners. He found the antidote to his unease in a “101” level series of massive open online courses, aka MOOCs, that explore manufacturing’s shift to a fourth industrial revolution — often called “Industry 4.0” — which uses data to make factories more efficient and competitive.

Cohen’s learning vehicle is the University at Buffalo’s Digital Manufacturing and Design Technology specialization, a 9-course bundle on Coursera.

“It’s given me a lot of things to think about in terms of how the life sciences industry is going to change when Industry 4.0 mechanisms start getting adopted outside of heavy industry,” Cohen said. “And I’m looking forward to having the skills and know-how to help the industry navigate that changing landscape.”

He characterizes the courses as being accessible. “You don’t necessarily need to be very well-versed in manufacturing lingo to understand these courses. And you don’t need to have copious amounts of time to devote.”

Cohen said he has extracted language from the specialization that makes conversing with industrial players easier.  

“I understand better where they are coming from. A lot of the lingo is specific,” he said. “Without these courses, I would have been poorly prepared to have conversations and get something out of them.”

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Technology specialization was developed by TCIE in coordination with the SMART (Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies) Community of Excellence, UB Center for Educational Innovation and industry partners. Efforts were partially funded by the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) and its parent organization, UI LABS.