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Senate majority reveals FY22 budget with significant science, entrepreneurship funding

October 21, 2021
By: Jason Rittenberg

With the regular budget process stalled for the time being, Senate Democrats released their draft bills for the remaining three-quarters of the FY 2022 federal budget. Included in these proposals are substantial increases for Build to Scale and the Small Business Administration’s innovation programs, as well as funding for a new Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) at the National Science Foundation. The draft bills are another positive indicator for how Congress may invest in science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in the near future, but the path forward remains uncertain.

The bills released by the Senate majority earlier this week include legislation funding the Department of Commerce, science agencies and SBA, among others. Highlights for regional innovation economies include the following:

  • Economic Development Administration
    • Total programmatic funding — $345 million (House proposal is $382.5 million; FY 2021 was $305.5 million)
    • Build to Scale — $50 million (House $50 million; FY 2021 $38.5 million)
  • Minority Business Development Agency — $55 million (House $70 million; FY 2021 $48 million)
  • Small Business Administration
    • Regional Innovation Clusters — $10 million (House $10 million; FY 2021 $6 million)
    • Federal and State Technology Partnership — $10 million (House $10 million; FY 2021 $4 million)
    • Growth Accelerators Fund Competition — $10 million (House $10 million; FY 2021 $2 million)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology
    • Manufacturing Extension Partnership — $175 million (House $275 million; FY 2021 $150 million)
    • Manufacturing USA — $38 million (House $56.5 million; FY 2021 $16.5 million)
  • National Science Foundation
    • Total funding $9.5 billion (House $9.6 billion; FY 2021 $8.5 billion)
    • Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships — $865 million (No comparable proposal in the House’s FY 2022 bill or the enacted FY 2021 budget)
    • Regional Innovation Accelerators — $200 million (No comparable proposal in the House’s FY 2022 bill or the enacted FY 2021 budget)

The report accompanying SBA’s appropriations text also expresses the Senate appropriations committee’s displeasure with the Regional Innovation Cluster initiative’s previous selection process, which did not allow nonprofit entities to compete. SBA would be required to report back to the committee with its eligibility plans for its next competition.

NSF’s TIP may be the most substantial change within the budget proposals for regional innovation economies. Per the report accompanying the bill text, the directorate would be a “cross-cutting platform to advance science and engineering research leading to breakthrough technologies, to find solutions to national and societal challenges, to strengthen U.S. global competitiveness, and to provide training opportunities for the development of a diverse STEM workforce.” Most likely, the funds spent by NSF for the directorate would not be all new funding, as proposals related to this initiative include moving some existing programs, such as Small Business Innovation Research, from other parts of NSF into the new directorate.

The Regional Innovation Accelerators program, which would likely fall within TIP, appears to represent an  entirely new initiative and based on proposals included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. Consistent with this legislation, the committee would instruct NSF to award at least 20 percent of these accelerators to institutions in Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) states.

Next Steps

While the Senate has not advanced most of its bills through the appropriations committee and the House has not passed all of its bills on the floor, Congress seems likely to bypass these steps and move directly to negotiate a total budget. Before this can occur, the chambers and parties must agree on an overall amount for the FY 2022 budget and for defense and non-defense spending. If Congress cannot reach an agreement on all of these points before current FY 2022 funding expires on Dec. 3, another continuing resolution for funding will be required.

You can support SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council to strengthen our efforts to bring about effective federal innovation policy — and to be among the first to learn about relevant appropriations and authorizations. Contact Jason Rittenberg (rittenberg@ssti.org) to learn more and to get involved today.

federal budget, fy22budget