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House passes bill enhancing SBIR

October 12, 2017
By: Jason Rittenberg

The U.S. House this week passed H.R. 2763, which would amend the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs in several significant ways. Most notably, the bill would extend by five years the “assistance for administrative… costs,” which is used for outreach initiatives and some business and market assistance initiatives across agencies. The bill would extend or implement other activities within SBIR/STTR, nearly all of which would improve the programs’ ability to support commercialization in parallel with technological development.

During the debate before the voice vote, a statement from Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) said the bill would help more small businesses pursue the awards and help more firms bring their products to market. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) added that the legislation was important for modernizing SBIR.

The Senate has not introduced legislation this Congress that would address these changes to SBIR/STTR. Contact SSTI (contactus@ssti.org | 614-901-1690) to find out how you can help or visit ssti.org/federal-policy for more information on SSTI’s policy education work.

The following is a summary of the legislation.

Administrative, Oversight and Contract Processing Costs. This less-than-inspiring title of the code supports a wide range of SBIR activities, including SBIR Road Tours, expanded I-Corps at NIH and the Department of Energy’s Phase 0 program. The bill would extend the authorization by five years (modified by section 14 of the bill).

Phase 0 Proof of Concept Partnership Pilot Program. This pilot has been authorized for the National Institutes of Health and has been used most prominently for the agency’s Centers for Accelerated Innovations and Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs to provide initial funding and support for promising research. The bill would expand the program to the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Energy and extend its authorization (modified by Section 13 of the bill).

Improvements to Business Assistance. The bill would greatly expand agencies’ ability to work with vendors who provide assistance services to awardees. Agencies would no longer be restricted to working with only one vendor, and these vendors will be able to provide business assistance (“product sales, intellectual property protections, market research, market validation”) in addition to technical assistance. The size of these agreements would also increase by $1,500 for Phase I awards and by $30,000 for Phase II awards, in addition to changing from a per-year to a per-project basis — subject to new restrictions to be determined by the Small Business Administration (modified by Section 7 of the bill).

Extension of Phase Flexibility. NIH, and the departments of defense and energy would continue to be able to waive Phase I as a prerequisite for Phase II awards (modified by Section 15). On a related point, the bill would clarify that Phase III awards do not need to be bid competitively and can instead be awarded directly to companies (modified by Section 6 of the bill).

Civilian Agency Commercialization Readiness Program. The bill would make permanent this pilot program, which allows all non-defense agencies to use up to 10 percent of their SBIR/STTR funds to essentially supplement Phase II or III awards, and awards made under this program can be up to three times larger than a standard Phase II award (modified by Section 11 of the bill).

Commercialization Readiness Program. The bill would require, instead of allow, defense offices to implement the program, which enables the use of SBIR funds to provide incentives to businesses for rapid development through acquisition, and would add reporting requirements to the program (modified by Sections 2 and 3 of the bill).

Commercialization Assistance Pilot Program. In addition to the existing commercialization pilots that already exist within SBIR/STTR, the bill would create a new initiative that effectively allows a small business to receive a third Phase II award that can be used for R&D only, so long as the company has developed a new commercialization plan and is backed by external funders (introduced by Section 12 of the bill).

Inclusion of Procurement Representatives. The bill would require agencies to ensure coordination between their SBIR program officer, procurement representative and small and disadvantaged business director in providing assistance to SBIR/STTR awardees (introduced by Section 8 of the bill).

Expanded Outreach. The bill would require agencies to make efforts to increase participation in SBIR/STTR among researchers at minority and Hispanic-serving institutions (introduced by Section 9 of the bill).

Annual Agency Meeting on Program Administration. In an apparent effort to encourage better information sharing and implementation practices, the bill would establish a meeting held by the SBA for all SBIR agencies to discuss data collection and reporting, application efficiency and outreach efforts (introduced by Section 10 of the bill).

Additional Award Priorities. Adding to an existing preference for energy efficiency projects, the bill would encourage all agencies to prioritize manufacturing companies and related R&D for SBIR/STTR awards and encourage agencies engaged in cybersecurity research to prioritize related technologies in their SBIR/STTR awards (introduced by Sections 4 and 5 of the bill).

Stronger Reporting. The bill would strengthen reporting provisions to help ensure agency cooperation (modified by Section 14 of the bill).

legislation, sbir