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Subcommittee hearing evaluates SBIR/STTR support for small business innovation

April 07, 2022
By: Emily Chesser

This week, the House science committee met to discuss the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The hearing comes as SBIR/STTR is both about to celebrate its 40th anniversary and is set to expire in less than six months without reauthorizing legislation. Members and witnesses focused the conversation on SBIR/STTR’s role in generating economic growth and on recommendations for improvements.

In her opening remarks, Rep. Haley Stevens, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Research and Technology, highlighted the role of SBIR and STTR programs in taking discoveries from a lab and transforming them into a product. Focusing on her home state, Stevens noted that the SBIR program awarded over $348 million for research and development to small businesses in Michigan. She shared her co-sponsorship of H.R. 4033, The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Improvements Act of 2021, which aims to encourage more manufacturer participation and reporting for the programs.

The witness panel included:

  • Dr. J. Stephen Binkley, acting director of the Office of Science in the U.S. Department of Energy;
  • Dr. Ben Schrag, program manager and policy liaison for the SBIR/STR Program and Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships at the National Science Foundation;
  • Dr. Maryann Feldman, professor of public policy and finance at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and research director for the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise;
  • Mr. George Caravias, chief executive officer of Geofabrica Inc.; and,
  • Dr. Nigel Reuel, associate professor and director of graduate education at Iowa State University.

Overall, the witness testimonies shared a positive view of the SBIR/STTR programs and acknowledged the program's accomplishments. Testimonies discussed the unique training provided by the program, the funding the programs provide for feasibility testing, and the ways SBIR/STTR programs help validate projects to external stakeholders. The witnesses also included recommendations that could benefit the programs, including providing application assistance programs to women-owned small businesses and socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses, reducing time frames for review and selection, and increasing opportunities for open topic calls. Feldman, in her testimony, specifically addressed the issue of data collection and reporting of SBIR/STTR applicants, which hindered her research team's ability to perform complete assessments of the programs.

More information on the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing can be found here.

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