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GIST TechConnect: Building the Innovation Ecosystem Through Science & Technology Policy

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Government policies impact an entrepreneur’s ability to succeed. Whether innovation is fostered or hindered depends on the policy adopted and its suitability for the local innovation ecosystem. This program explores how science and technology policies can help build an innovation ecosystem for entrepreneurs as well as illuminating lessons learned from failed innovation policies from around the world.

CRISTINA FERNANDEZ focuses on integrating policymakers into startup ecosystems through Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) initiatives across the world and liaises closely with the Startup Nations network and the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN). Prior to joining the leadership team at GEN, she was a Research Analyst at the Kauffman Foundation, Operations Manager for a Millennium Challenge Corporation-funded project in Paraguay. She was also a consultant for an international patent and trademark law firm that helps foreign entrepreneurs enter the Paraguayan market.

ANITA J. LaSALLE is a Program Director at the National Science Foundation, in the Division for Computer and Network Systems (CNS), where she is one of three NSF Program officers who created and manage NSF’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) – a set of programs that fund the translation of technologies from "the academic lab to the marketplace". Anita is Professor Emeritus from American University (AU) in Washington, DC where she served as Chair of the Computer and Information Science Department, in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Chair of the Information Technology Department, in the Kogod School of Business.

FIRAS BenACHOUR is a seasoned technology entrepreneur and executive with 25 years of experience working with innovative technology and healthcare startups. Mr. BenAchour is also a Founding Member at Tunisian American Young Professionals (TAYP) and is currently serving as its President. Firas BenAchour is a Founder of Apexiia; a cloud based People’s Management Solutions for Small and Medium Companies in the MENA region. He is also a Healthcare IT Consultant working with startups to develop their go-to-market strategy. Firas BenAchour was also a CEO at Diagnosoft (2008-2012) a venture-backed healthcare technology startup located in the Research Triangle Park in Morrisville, North Carolina.

MARCO BRAVO (Moderator) is a Project Director at the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin. He is an engineer who has founded three companies and a business angel fund, and has mentored more than 120 technology startups and entrepreneurs. In industry, he has held management positions at Continental AG in Germany and Portugal. He has served as Advisor and Chief of Staff for the State Secretary for Science, Technology, and Higher Education of the Portuguese Government. He has worked extensively with entrepreneurs and innovators in growing technology-based startups around the world.