sbir

Would an increase in the quantity of NIH SBIR awards impact their overall quality?

In a recent study titled Does NIH select the right healthcare ventures through the SBIR grant program?, researchers from Rutgers University and the University of Connecticut took advantage of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to conduct a natural experiment. The opportunity was available due to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) decision to use ARRA dollars to fund additional Phase I SBIR awards from general SBIR competitions, and the researchers compared these 19 ARRA-funded awards to the other 479 Phase I awards that were first funded in the same competitions with regular appropriations.

SBA announces 44 FAST awardees

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced 44 FAST awards, including 12 new awards,  totaling over $5.4 million, with each up to $125,000 for specialized training, mentoring, and technical assistance for research and development. The goal of the Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program is to strengthen the competitiveness of small businesses and startups to improve Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program outcomes.

Congress advances three-year SBIR/STTR reauthorization

On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill to extend the SBIR, STTR and related pilot programs through Sept. 30, 2025. The House is expected to act on the legislation next week, just ahead of the current expiration at the end of this month. In addition to reauthorizing the programs, the legislation makes changes to performance standards for companies with numerous awards, foreign risk management, topic solicitations, and requires several new reports by SBA and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Recent Research: Exploring nationwide distribution of AI-focused Phase II SBIR projects

States with top-ranking university AI research programs garner a greater number of Phase II AI-related SBIR awards, according to a working paper from the Department of Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Researchers there investigated state variations in the distribution of Phase II SBIR research projects focused on artificial intelligence (AI). The authors of the paper hypothesized that the state-by-state variations are related to the presence of a research university with a “Top 10” AI program in each state. Analysis showed that three out of the five states receiving the most funding for AI-related Phase II SBIR projects had a top-ranked AI research university. Although proximity to a top research university may be beneficial to Phase II SBIR applicants with AI-focused projects, it is not the only path to success in capturing SBIR funds.

Congressional inaction threatens SBIR program

The federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, providing nearly $4 billion in technology research and development funding, expire — in just six weeks — on Sept. 30. Unlike many federal programs that regularly operate beyond the end of their authorization, there is no direct SBIR appropriation that will ensure the program continues as-is without congressional action. Instead, SBIR would be on an agency-by-agency basis. The Department of Defense already announced it “cannot continue funding new or ongoing” projects without reauthorization, and the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) has warned that even the agencies that carry on may have challenges with SBIR data rights (a non-disclosure obligation on the federal government for certain information developed under an SBIR/STTR award) and post-award (i.e., Phase III) purchases of SBIR-developed technologies by federal agencies.

GAO finds new Air Force SBIR process increases participation and geographic distribution of awards

A new open topic approach used by the U.S. Air Force in issuing Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards coincided with an overall increase in the agency’s SBIR/STTR participation figures and proposal processing times, according to a recent federal analysis. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that using open topics for soliciting Phase I proposals, which the Air Force implemented in 2018, has largely displaced the agency’s conventional process of offering very specific research topics. The open approach was found to be more effective in attracting new companies to federal contracting and issuing awards quickly. GAO found nearly 43 percent of the 1,001 open topics awardees had no prior federal contract experience compared to only 14 percent of the 771 conventional awardees being new to federal procurement. Additionally, GAO reports that an April 2021 study found that after receiving an open topic award these awardees were more likely to obtain further funding from other sources.

Recent Research: Access to information is key to SBIR effectiveness

Accelerators, incubators and entrepreneurial assistance programs work to ensure their startups understand their product’s market competition, customers, and supply chain. As it turns out, that’s also good advice for small research-based firms trying to move from SBIR proof-of-concept funding to securing the larger Phase II awards. A survey of approximately 250 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program awardees by researchers finds market information from suppliers, customers, and competitors to be key for small entrepreneurial firms to increase publicly funded research and development (R&D) effectiveness.

America’s Seed Fund Week aims to educate and connect in SBIR’s 40th year

Entrepreneurs learned more about small business funding opportunities from federal agencies with Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs during America’s Seed Fund Week last week. The $4 billion funding program, which is currently up for reauthorization, is celebrating 40 years of providing funding to small businesses each year in a variety of technology areas. Videos, including advice from program managers, and resources from each participating federal agency are available online.

Useful Stats: NIH SBIR/STTR application success rates & trends, FY 2012-2021

In fiscal year 2021, the nationwide success rate of applicants for National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I awards decreased slightly from FY 2020. This continued a downward trend over recent years. The success rate for NIH SBIR/STTR Phase I was nearly 13 percent (647 of 5,132 approved) in FY 2021, a decrease from nearly 14 percent (636 of 4,684 approved) in FY 2020 and from nearly 16 percent for all proposals submitted over the past decade.

SBIR at 40 – What’s Next?

During the SBIR/STTR Spring Innovation Conference, the U.S. Small Business Administration hosted a keynote session titled, “SBIR at 40 – What’s Next?” Panelists, moderated by SBA’s Erick Page-Littleford, discussed the impact that the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs have had over their 40 years of existence, and what the future may hold.

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