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Study finds SBA’s FAST is working

January 30, 2020
By: Mark Skinner

The Federal and State Technology Partnership (FAST) is intended to increase innovation-based small business awareness and participation in the SBIR and STTR programs in places and populations that are underrepresented in the programs’ award portfolios.  Through FAST, the Small Business Administration (SBA) makes small, matching one-year awards to state programs on a competitive basis. The most recent class of 24 FAST winners was announced in August 2019.  First funded in 2001, FAST has become the cornerstone for funding many states’ initiatives intended to help SBIR applicants become involved in the federal SBIR/STTR programs. But does the program work?

A new, independent study prepared by Summit Consulting and funded by the SBA, suggests favorable findings along several performance indicators for FAST awards made during the FY 2015-2017 period (old enough that SBIR outcomes could be assessed but young enough that most of the companies are still trackable).

Clients of FAST-awarded state programs won 285 awards totaling $79,712,439 (Phase I and Phase II for both SBIR and STTR) during the three years, FY 2015-2017. That is still less than 1 percent of the nearly $8.3 billion awarded through both federal programs combined. More telling of FAST’s success is that the conversion rate of Phase I applications into actual SBIR/STTR Phase I awards is 29 percent, well above the national average under 17 percent for the same period.

The report also presents some data regarding the perennial question in the entrepreneurial assistance policy space of whether tech-based economic development organizations or traditional small business support organizations (structures tailored to primarily support Main Street companies) are in a better position to provide adequate services to innovation-driven startup companies — those firms whose future growth is built around products and services derived from science and technology.  The study found clients of Small Business Technology Development Centers (SBTDCs) converted 21.6 percent of their Phase I applications into actual awards, above the national average, while non-SBTDC FAST awardee clients more than doubled the national average by converting 35.5 percent of Phase I applications into grants.

The report is available for download here.

sba, sbir, FAST