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SSTI analysis reveals SBIR “mills” take outsized portion of the program’s awards

SBA efforts to reign in abuse of the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program continue, yet companies that seem to use SBIR awards as a primary revenue stream rather than a means to creating future revenue paths through new product and process innovations persist, based on SSTI’s review of award data. Known as “SBIR mills” many of these companies appear to be clustered geographically in specific metropolitan areas, many of which house major federal labs or research centers, the analysis of SBIR data reveals.  This suggests, from a policy perspective, that the federal agencies could be doing much more to curtail the mills and redirect awards into companies more consistently focused on turning innovation into products, profits and jobs.

The data reveals the extent of abuse by the small number of SBIR mills among all awardees is not insignificant: awards made to potential mills account for more than 21 percent of all awards made during the period from 2009 to 2019.

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

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. Next week 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.

Where are the women? An examination of women's participation in the SBIR/STTR program

A recent report by the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) found that participation rates in the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs by women-owned small businesses (WOSB) has essentially remained flat since 2011. Although participation rates vary by awarding agency, the report highlights several barriers faced by women entrepreneurs. Despite the gloomy findings, the report features promising practices from entrepreneurial support organizations (ESOs) that may “right the ship” in supporting women entrepreneurs through the SBIR/STTR program.

New research provides empirical support for relationship building to encourage innovation economies

As discussion of innovation ecosystems remains near the front of science, technology, and innovation policy discussions — and resources are spent providing environments for creative exchange between researchers, industry, government, and entrepreneurs — substantive and empirical research is still lagging. However, a recent study sheds new light on the mechanisms and types of interactions that may contribute to the desired outcomes of promoting innovation ecosystems.

Recent Research: North Carolina’s SBIR/STTR matching program yields results

Since 2005, the One North Carolina Small Business Program has made 423 SBIR/STTR matching awards worth nearly $26 million to more than 250 businesses throughout the state. A new assessment, which updates an earlier report, provides academic rigor to a standard program review. The results indicate that even beyond survey-based attestations to the program’s value, there is a statistically-significant impact of North Carolina’s funding for the competitiveness of recipients.

Updated SBIR/STTR website more organized and accessible

The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently rolled out a new website for the SBIR/STTR program which SBA administers. Reorganized and including new landing pages for entrepreneurs, support organizations, and federal agencies, the new page provides quicker and easier access to the right information.

Useful Stats: Measuring NIH SBIR/STTR Awards by State, 2019

In this week’s edition of Useful Stats, we take a look at NIH’s SBIR/STTR program by state, including the success rate of applications, the share SBIR awards make up of NIH funding to for-profit companies by state, and the total number of awards by state. It should be noted that SSTI was able to prepare this information because of the excellent transparency of information that NIH offers on its website, a model that should be replicated by other federal agencies.

Study finds SBA’s FAST is working

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.

Innovation on hold for 1-out-of-4 SBIR winners

Federal agencies fail, on average, 24 percent of the time to notify applicant small businesses of award decisions within required deadlines. A small business has a zero percent chance of being able to plan to start an innovation project within six months if they apply to ARPA-E (the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency) or the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, both of which never met the deadline. 

SBA makes 24 FAST awards to advance SBIR/STTR

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced 24 grants to organizations working to increase SBIR/STTR awards and commercialization outcomes in their states. The Federal and State Technology Partnership program (FAST) emphasizes initiatives focusing on underrepresented regions and entrepreneurs.

Congratulations to the SSTI members receiving FAST awards in the 2019 cycle:

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