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Useful Stats: Agency SBIR/STTR awards by state, 2009-2019

September 10, 2020
By: Colin Edwards

Consideration of a state’s trends in the distribution of SBIR awards by federal agency may help program leaders and policy makers optimize the design and performance for state and regional support of innovation-based startups. For instance, knowing which federal agencies provide the dominant share of awards in a state can inform a program’s marketing and outreach efforts, and, more importantly for the startups being assisted, it can guide recruiting the right mix of mentors and knowledge assets to a program’s technical assistance capabilities. The data also can inform efforts to attract investors and potential customers with similar alignment of interests with companies in a state’s SBIR portfolio. SSTI’s focus this week on the agency distribution of SBIR awards by state over the past decade reveals some interesting insights. In the next edition of Useful Stats we will take a deeper dive into the data and examine awardee distribution trends at the regional level.

An exclusive SSTI analysis reveals that for the 10-year period from 2009 to 2018, two federal agencies were the top contributors to SBIR/STTR spending in every state and the District of Columbia. The Department of Defense (DoD) accounted for the greatest SBIR/STTR spending in 29 states while the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was the greatest funder in 22 states. This trend remains the same when including 2019 award data, although it is important to note that as of the writing of this article, DoD’s complete 2019 SBIR/STTR data was not available.

As seen in the interactive chart below, DoD and HHS provide a significant proportion of all the annual SBIR/STTR awards made in most states. This is not surprising since they are the largest federal agency participants in the programs. However, examining the agency SBIR/STTR spending concentrations in states within single years shows that these two agencies are not exclusively the largest sources of individual awards in all years. The data reveals the uniformity or complexity within certain states’ innovation system dynamics as well; several states experience very little annual change in the distribution of agency SBIR/STTR awards, while other states’ trends reveal much greater variability.

However, closer examination shows there is considerable variation within years and across states. DoD has provided at least 40 percent of all SBIR/STTR award dollars for every year in the period in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, and Virginia. Several other states experience relatively high annual concentrations of DoD SBIR/STTR funding but with more annual variation. For example, DoD was the top funder — accounting for more than 40 percent of all SBIR/STTR awards — in California every year since 2009 except three of the four most recent years. DoD was also the primary funding agency in Idaho, with more than 40 percent of total SBIR funding in every year except 2012, 2016, and 2018 when other agencies topped DoD.

Similarly, HHS provided at least 40 percent of all SBIR/STTR award dollars annually in Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Other states — such as Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah, and Washington — also experienced generally high concentrations of HHS funding with the occasional years of decreased activity, followed by periods of renewed high levels of HHS spending.

Other agencies took the top position for SBIR/STTR funding in individual states in individual years from 2009 to 2019: the National Science Foundation (top agency in any state 17 times), Department of Energy (top agency 11 times), and Department of Agriculture (five times). NASA was the top funding agency in a state three times, Department of Commerce was the top agency twice, and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation were both the top awarding agency in a state one time. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Education were never the top funding agency in any state for the period.

The relative concentration of agency SBIR/STTR awards in states can have implications for startups, universities and research centers, federal laboratories, state policy makers, and others in the innovation community. SBIR/STTR outreach and inclusion efforts, technical assistance programs, and other services provided by entrepreneurial support organizations may want to look very different in states where the proportions of awards by agency remain relatively constant compared to states where agency funding is more variable.

Click here for an Excel workbook containing SSTI’s analysis of the SBA data.

sbir, sttr, useful stats