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Spotlight on Commerce: Nishith Acharya, Director, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Senior Adviser

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Nishith Acharya, Director, Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Senior Adviser

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of an America Built to Last.

As Director of the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, my main responsibility is to manage and coordinate efforts to commercialize more of the research that is funded by the federal government.  The US government provides about $150 billion in research funds to universities, labs and companies annually, and we are finding ways for support greater commercial application of that research to create successful companies and jobs. We support the President’s Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, work with over 500 universities around the country on issues of innovation and entrepreneurship, and run the i6 Challenge, which is a $1 million award to six different winners each – focused on creating more commercial ventures at our research institutes.

Our office plays a critical role in supporting the President’s agenda.  America’s greatest advantage is its innovation infrastructure and its deep culture of entrepreneurship.  Our office supports the development and implementation of programs and policies to enhance that.  This includes funding for innovation centers, coordination with universities and federal labs, and communication with entrepreneurs directly to understand their challenges and needs from the Administration.  Supporting innovation is critical for sectors such as manufacturing and energy, and entrepreneurship can never be taught too early.

I grew up in Wayland, MA, just outside of Boston.  My parents emigrated from India in the 1960’s and have lived in the Boston area for most of my life. I got my BS in Political Science and Economics from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. and then moved to DC to get my Master’s in Public Administration from the George Washington University with a specialization in international development.

I have always been active in many community groups, in the Asian American Community and beyond.  I am  a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bretton Woods Committee.  I also had the privilege of serving on the Board of Directors for Northeastern University, my alma mater, and being a member of the Clinton Global Initiative prior to joining the Administration.   I also was quite active in several South Asian American groups, including the Network of Indian Professionals, the Indus Entrepreneurs and the Indian American Leadership Initiative.

Asian Pacific Heritage Month is a wonderful opportunity for the country to highlight the influence, success and assimilation of the Asian American community in the United States and our history as Americans.   I am certainly very proud of my Indian American heritage and enjoy helping fellow Indian Americans and Asian Americans follow their dreams whenever I can – as connector, mentor or friend.

My advice to young Asian Americans is to be proud of themselves, personally and professionally, and to strive for success in whatever they do.  The Obama Administration has the largest number of Asian American appointees in history, and they are all here because of their professional accomplishments.   But we are all also proud of our heritage and supportive of each other.  That is a path I believe all leads to personal and professional pride.

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