Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing to examine the role of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs in promoting innovation and job growth. Democratic Members of the subcommittee focused on the role that small businesses are playing in our economic recovery.
"Small businesses are on the innovation frontline -- developing new technologies that will lead to new products in the market, create high-paying jobs, and spur economic growth," said Subcommittee Ranking Member Wu (D-OR). "I truly believe that small businesses are key to getting our economy back on track, as well as developing technologies that are directly responsive to federal agency needs. That is why it is so important that we find bipartisan consensus to reauthorize the SBIR program."
Democratic Members discussed the importance of enacting a comprehensive, long-term SBIR and STTR reauthorization bill before the current short-term extension expires at the end of May. The previous comprehensive authorizations of the SBIR and STTR programs expired in September of 2008 and September of 2009, respectively.
In the 111th Congress, the House passed H.R. 2965, the Enhancing Small Business Research and Innovation Act of 2009, on an overwhelming bipartisan basis in July of 2009. The Senate passed S. 4053, the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2010, in December of 2010 by unanimous consent. The House and Senate were unable to reach final agreement on a comprehensive reauthorization bill before Congress adjourned.
"It's no secret that our constituents are looking to us for bipartisan jobs legislation. The good news is that a reauthorization of the SBIR program answers that call," said Ranking Member Wu. "We should do everything we can to ensure that we don't find ourselves in the same avoidable stalemate with the Senate we reached last year. I'd like to believe we learned a lesson that endless waiting and jockeying benefits no one, least of all small business owners across America that can get our economy on track to prosperity."
The SBIR program was first authorized in 1982. It seeks to stimulate technological innovation by small businesses, increase the use of small businesses to meet government research and development needs, expand commercialization of the results of federally funded research and development, and increase the participation of woman- and minority-owned small businesses. It requires every federal agency with an extramural research and development budget of $100 million or more to allocate 2.5 percent of their extramural research and development budget for an SBIR program. Eleven federal agencies have SBIR programs, including the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The STTR program was created in 1992 and provides federal research and development funding for research collaborations between small businesses and research institutions, often universities. Federal agencies with extramural research budgets exceeding $1 billion are required to allocate 0.3 percent of the extramural budget for the STTR program. Current participants in the STTR program include DOE, DOD, HHS, NASA, and NSF.