WASHINGTON – United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, today introduced legislation to reauthorize the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Small Business Innovation Research program and Small Business Technology Transfer program. SBIR is scheduled to sunset on July 31, 2009, and STTR is scheduled to sunset on September 30, 2009.
“SBIR and STTR are essential programs that level the playing field for America’s 27 million small businesses,” Chair Landrieu said. “They have been extremely successful for so many small businesses from Louisiana and across the nation. Recipients of SBIR and STTR awards have produced more than 85,000 patents and have generated millions of well-paying jobs across all 50 states. This bill strikes a fair compromise on the question of eligibility requirements, allowing some new firms to participate while not changing the nature of these successful programs. We must make sure these remain programs for truly small businesses. Today is a very important first step toward getting a bill to President Obama’s desk before the July 31st expiration of SBIR.”
“Reauthorizing the SBIR and STTR programs will unleash the ground-breaking innovation potential of our nation’s small businesses, particularly given that these critical initiatives direct more than $2 billion in Federal research and development funding annually to small-tech firms across the nation,” said Ranking Member Snowe. “At a time when the nation is struggling to dig out of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, we must ensure that our country once again brings to bear the kind of ingenuity, creativity, and innovation that made America and our free-market economy the greatest and most powerful on earth. By assisting thousands of pioneering small businesses with the development and promotion of scientific breakthroughs, the SBIR and STTR programs keep America ahead of the curve. And by increasing the percentage of Federal research and development dollars they receive, we will pump another $1 billion into our small business economy.”
The SBIR program was established by Congress in 1982, and the STTR program in 1992, to, among other things, help meet the government’s research and development needs through small businesses. Federal agencies with an annual external R&D budget of more than $100 million must allocate 2.5 percent of their extramural R&D dollars to the SBIR program. Agencies with an annual external R&D budget of more than $1 billion must allocate an additional 0.3 percent to the STTR program. While departments and agencies make awards and manage their own programs, the SBA has government-wide oversight.
The last comprehensive reauthorization of the SBIR program occurred in 2000, when the program was reauthorized for eight years, scheduled to sunset on September 30, 2008. The program has since received two temporary extensions – first to March 20, 2009 and now to July 31, 2009. The STTR was last reauthorized in 2001, also for eight years.
A similar bill received unanimous support from the Committee last year. The legislation will reauthorize the programs for 14 years, giving small businesses and the government the stability they need to plan for and transition important technologies for our country. It amends the eligibility requirements to allow businesses owned and controlled by multiple venture capital firms to compete for a certain percentage of SBIR projects while making sure that there’s a fair playing field for the small businesses that are independently owned and operated. It also adjusts the amount of SBIR and STTR awards to reflect inflation costs while taking a measured approach to increasing the allocation dedicated to these important small business research and development programs.