Nish Acharya is a senior fellow at American Progress and is currently a principal at Equal Innovation LLC, a strategy consulting and investment group working with universities, governments, foundations, and companies to assist them with innovation, entrepreneurship, and globalization strategies. He is also currently advising Northeastern University on its global education strategy.
Acharya just left the Obama administration, where he was appointed by then-President Barack Obama as the director of innovation and entrepreneurship and senior adviser to the secretary of commerce, where he led the president’s efforts to nurture economic growth through innovation, entrepreneurship, and commercialization. As part of his work, Acharya managed the president’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship—a group of nationally known investors, entrepreneurs, and university presidents. Acharya also engaged with 26 federal agencies to provide more than $100 million in funds to universities, research centers, and companies to increase the commercialization of federally funded research. He engaged with more than 500 universities and colleges across the United States to boost their programs supporting innovation, entrepreneurship, and commercialization.
Prior to joining the Department of Commerce, Acharya served as executive director of the Deshpande Foundation, a prominent American philanthropy focused on innovation, entrepreneurship, and scalability around the world. Acharya led the foundation’s strategic planning, grant-making, evaluation, and advocacy efforts. Under his leadership, the foundation’s “Sandboxes”—centers of innovation and entrepreneurship—have become a leading international model for regional economic development. During his tenure, the foundation created a Sandbox in India, which supported innovation and entrepreneurs to reach more than 1 million people. Acharya has also led the foundation’s venture philanthropy, working to help scale Indian nongovernmental organizations such as Akshaya Patra and Agastya and the United Way throughout India. It also created Sandboxes to boost the economies of the Merrimack Valley cities of Lowell and Lawrence in Massachusetts, and New Brunswick, Canada.
Acharya serves as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bretton Woods Committee, The Indus Entrepreneurs, and the Clinton Global Initiative. He also served as a board member of Akshaya Patra USA and the United Way Worldwide Global Advisory Board.
Acharya also served five years as a presidential appointee in the Clinton administration, where he worked with the administrator and deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development for programs in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, and has worked for former Education Secretary Richard Riley and as associate director of scheduling and advance for the president.
Acharya has a master’s in public administration from George Washington University, a B.S. in political science from Northeastern University, and is a graduate of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management Executive Program. He has been quoted in many major publications, including The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, AsianWeek, The Times of India, The Economic Times, Financial Times, Newsweek, BBC, and NPR.