Who we are


The Global Innovation Forum (GIF) elevates small business voices to foster an inclusive policy landscape that enables companies of all sizes to innovate, trade and engage in the global digital economy.

By leveraging a global network of government officials, civil society, and private sector leaders, GIF delivers actionable insights and impactful programs to emphasize how technology and trade policies can advance resilience and inclusive growth.

As an educational project of the 501(c)(3) National Foreign Trade Council Foundation, GIF connects small businesses and policymakers to bridge the gap between big picture trade policy and the experiences of entrepreneurs, workers and people. 

These efforts highlight the role of public policies in: enabling global innovators to develop transformative businesses, pursue solutions to global challenges such as climate change and public health and improve the lives of workers, families and communities around the world.

Engaging globally-minded innovators

Many of the solutions to complex global challenges and much of the potential growth for companies and countries will be created by entrepreneurs and small businesses, either through direct participation in the global marketplace or as partners with multinational companies managing global supply chains.

There are, however, few opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators to connect with policymakers in Washington, DC or in capitals around the world on trade and innovation policy issues.

The Global Innovation Forum is a unique vehicle for connecting innovative business leaders around the United States and the world with trade policy experts and practitioners.  Through op-eds, policy initiatives, and ongoing series of roundtable discussions among local businesses, policymakers, and select national thought leaders, the GIF improves the dialogue surrounding the challenges and opportunities of innovating across borders in the digital age.

GIF leverages relationships with a series of respected innovation centers to connect policymakers with local business leaders and entrepreneurs. These sessions drive conversations about public policies and their impact on the ability of a range of individuals and companies to participate effectively in the global marketplace of the 21st Century.


Elevate the global opportunity

GIF improves understanding of the new role that startups, nonprofits and businesses of all sizes are playing in the global marketplace, finding new customers, partners and tools to sustain and grow their operations.

Articulate the policy challenges

GIF helps entrepreneurs and innovators articulate the regulatory, customs, market access and related challenges they face to government officials and the public.

Improve the public policy landscape

GIF offers a unique platform for industry, small business and nonprofit stakeholders to improve governments’ understanding of how policies may affect their ability to participate in global markets.

Unlock opportunities in the global digital economy

GIF elevates the public and private tools that exist to enable entrepreneurs to participate more effectively in global trade.


The National Foreign Trade Council Foundation launched the Global Innovation Forum to create a greater understanding of the importance of the policy foundations that underpin the ability of startups, researchers, universities and companies of all sizes to innovate globally.

Examples of GIF Activities

Over the Years


GIF hosted a WTO Public Forum session on “Encouraging Globally-Engaged Women Entrepreneurs” to explore how digitally-enabled networks, tools and trade policies can be gender-transformative. 


GIF developed and distributed to hundreds of government officials a report on lessons learned for e-commerce from COVID-19 and takeaways for WTO e-commerce negotiations. GIF also hosted a series of events to inform e-commerce negotiators including a virtual forum featuring entrepreneurs.


GIF engaged women entrepreneurs in Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Singapore in round-table discussions on supporting women-owned businesses. These events built on themes from a report published by GIF on women’s entrepreneurship in ASEAN.


GIF held a series of discussions with European entrepreneurs in Paris, Brussels, and London to discuss getting UK startups and small businesses global post-Brexit and created new partnerships with entrepreneurs and startup incubators in the ASEAN region as it published a new report on the New Faces of Trade: ASEAN Women in e-Commerce.


GIF organized forums at the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, including a seminar with the FEDs on the role of global technology in the success of small business, a private dinner with the World Economic Forum on global small businesses and digital trade that featured guests including MercadoLibre and Alibaba, and a public panel with the Valo Hub Labs incubator on Getting Latin American Startups Global with Visa, Google, Startup Chile, the Government of the City of Buenos Aires and several Argentina-based entrepreneurs.


GIF accelerated its innovative partnership with the U.S. Government to advance Startup Global, an effort to increase the awareness of U.S. entrepreneurs of the public and private sector resources available to grow their businesses internationally.


GIF hosted its first annual salon brunch alongside SXSW in Austin, Texas, bringing together globally-minded startup, government and community partners.


GIF hosted conferences in DC, London, and Geneva with representatives from startups, corporations, and governments to discuss the challenges and opportunities of global markets, concentrating on financial services, e-commerce and online platforms — including a discussion with eBay CEO Devin Wenig. In Chile, the GIF held a forum at the LatAm Startups Conference to discuss what Latin American countries can do to promote innovation.


The Global Innovation Forum held a series of discussions in partnership with major universities and the Partnership for a New American Economy to discuss the impact on U.S. competitiveness of current visa and immigration policies in Northern California (UC Davis), Colorado (CU-Boulder), Texas (University of Texas at Austin) and North Carolina (Duke University).


NFTC drew in talented entrepreneurs, technology innovators, policymakers, and business leaders for a series of discussions about “how to succeed in the global economy:” In Chicago, featuring Commerce Under Secretary Sánchez and in partnership with Chicago Council on Global Affairs; In Cincinnati, with Techsolve; and In Pittsburgh, featuring U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.


The Global Innovation Forum held discussions on “going global to support innovation” in Research Triangle Park HQ in North Carolina, at GE’s advanced manufacturing research facility outside of Detroit, and at two forums held over several months in Silicon Valley, where participants focused on the President’s goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years and new challenges to American innovation, including efforts by governments around the world to restrict the free flow of information. 


Howard University’s Institute for Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Innovation (ELI Institute) and the Global Innovation Forum hosted an event, “Securing America’s Future: Innovation Jobs for the Middle Class” on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC. The event marked the first public event for then U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, who delivered keynote remarks and stressed the important relationship between global trade rules and job creation.