Today the 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. The Science, Space, and Technology Committee will consider a reauthorization of these programs in advance of their expiration at the end of May.
"SBIR and STTR are unique in that they are examples of federal programs that have largely been successful, and have received bipartisan support since their creation," noted Subcommittee Chairman Ben Quayle (R-AZ). Quayle added that small businesses that have received SBIR and STTR grants "have expanded innovation, helped grow our economy by creating thousands of jobs, and are assisting participating federal agencies to fulfill their missions. "
The SBIR program was signed into law by President Reagan in 1982 to help spur innovation and increase small business participation in federal research and development activity. Since its inception, this competitive grant program has awarded over $23 billion in SBIR awards for more than 100,000 projects across the nation, and has helped spawn familiar companies such as Qualcomm, Sonicare, and Symantec. The STTR program was created in 1992 and provides federal research and development (R&D) funding for research collaborations between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions.
Today, 11 federal agencies provide funding to small businesses through SBIR, and five agencies provide funding through STTR. Grant recipients have contributed to the country's scientific and technical knowledge, generating thousands of patents and a wealth of peer-reviewed articles.
The National Research Council's (NRC) review of SBIR found the program to be "sound in concept and effective in practice," but also identified ways the program can be improved.
Dr. Don Siegel, who worked on the NRC assessment of the SBIR emphasized "the need to conduct regular, rigorous systematic evaluations of the Program," in his testimony to the Committee.
Chairman Quayle noted that proper evaluation "is crucial to ensure the federal government is getting the greatest return for its investment. This is particularly necessary in today's budget environment."