Connecting the Dots

Terik Tidwell draws on his considerable experience in inclusive innovation to enhance the nation’s competitiveness in science and technology.

Last year, Terik Tidwell went to Egypt as a Fulbright Fellow to help the vice minister for scientific affairs conduct an assessment of the country’s 2017 National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation—an initiative intended to enhance the overall innovation and entrepreneurship of the country within higher education.

Over three weeks, Tidwell visited nearly 10 universities in Cairo, along with various other stakeholders—from ministry officials to representatives at science parks and entrepreneurial incubators—to see how each was implementing the policy throughout their respective organizations.

“It was an exhausting experience,” says Tidwell, “but it was nonetheless exhilarating and amazing at the same time, because it was quite a significant strategy to go in and do this in a very delicate way in a country that’s evolving from very traditional roots.”

Tidwell was well prepared for his fellowship because he’s spent the past 15 years facilitating inclusive, tech-based economic development while working at the intersection of entrepreneurship, technology, policy, philanthropy, and education.

He is also no stranger to the fellowship world. He completed an Education Pioneers Fellowship in 2013, a Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Fellowship in 2017, a Global Innovation Fellowship in 2017, a U.S.–China Ecosystem Fellowship in 2018, and an Ecosystem Alumni TIES Fellowship in 2019.

Currently, Tidwell is the director of inclusive innovation at VentureWell, a company with decades of experience investing in science, tech innovation, and entrepreneurship with universities, startups, entrepreneurs, and federal agencies.

“Inclusive innovation involves bringing together diverse groups that may develop some technology, or build a program, or commercialize something that is patentable,” says Tidwell. “It’s about designing and implementing … those programs and strategies and investments.”

Prior to joining VentureWell in July 2022, Tidwell was the executive and founding director of the Smith Tech-Innovation Center at Johnson C. Smith University, where he developed programs and partnerships and raised more than $19 million in funding from companies, federal agencies, and various philanthropic organizations.

“The Fulbright fellowship not only connected me to an alumni network of 400,000 Fulbrighters around the globe who have a shared interest in innovation, entrepreneurial development, and globalization,” says Tidwell, “it helped me professionally, because I’m able to apply what I’ve learned to a project that my company is working on in Egypt.”

Looking ahead, Tidwell is eager to do at VentureWell what he feels he does best: connecting the dots for various stakeholders in an innovation ecosystem. That could be a researcher in a lab who’s disconnected from an investor who might be looking to invest in technology, or a faculty member who wants to support students becoming more entrepreneurial—or even supporting an innovation center that enables all of these connections to happen.

“This role is probably the pinnacle of my various experiences,” says Tidwell. “I love being able to influence and impact a lot of areas in higher education to help bring some alignment within their innovation ecosystems.”