India-born Gururaj Deshpande, chairman of Tejas Networks, A123 and Akshaya Patra, has been appointed co-chairman of United States President Barack Obama's National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He will support Obama's innovation strategy by helping develop policies that foster entrepreneurship, create jobs and drive economic growth.
Popularly known as 'Desh', Deshpande is one of the 26 members of the council which includes serial entrepreneurs, university presidents, investors and non-profit leaders. Steve Case and Mary Sue Coleman will serve as the other co-chairs.
The announcement was made by US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke at a US Department of Commerce, University Innovation Forum at the University of Michigan.
"America's innovation engine is not as efficient or as effective as it needs to be, and we are not creating as many jobs as we should," said Locke in a press statement.
"The National Advisory Council will help the administration develop a broader strategy to spur innovation and enable entrepreneurs to develop breakthrough technologies and dynamic companies, and to create jobs all across America. I want to extend my gratitude to the leaders selected to the National Advisory Council. Their work will be a key component of America's economic recovery."
Deshpande is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He serves as a member of the MIT Corporation and has contributed around $20 million to make possible MIT's Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation.
The Deshpande Foundation is one of the leading philanthropic foundations in the areas of innovation, entrepreneurship and international development. Through its grants, the foundation has helped launch innovative companies, assisted non-government organisations develop an international presence and launched partnerships with some of the most remarkable change agents in the world today.
Deshpande does not need another claim to fame. Nevertheless, his brother-in-law is N R Narayana Murthy (Murthy's wife Sudha and Deshpande's wife Jaishree are sisters). Since 2000, Deshpande and his wife have been involved in several non-profit initiatives that include support for MIT, IIT, TiE, Akshaya Patra Foundation, Public Health Foundation of India and the Social Entrepreneurship Sandbox in Hubli, Karnataka.
Born in Hubli, Deshpande graduated in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and went to Canada to do his Master's and PhD. He used to be an academic before a fellow professor got him into the world of business.
Unlike Murthy, who has focused on Infosys Technologies Ltd since its start in 1981, Deshpande has started and taken public three multi-billion-dollar companies including A123 Systems, which debuted well on Nasdaq.