WASHINGTON--- Today three Massachusetts small businesses participated in a roundtable hosted by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, on how to strengthen the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. In 2005, Massachusetts firms received $240 million in contracts to invent and develop innovative products, second only to California. Participants discussed how to help businesses commercialize their research products and protect their intellectual property rights.

“Massachusetts SBIR firms have developed technologies like artificial lungs and nerve gas protection systems that are crucial to our country’s health, military might and economic growth,” said Senator Kerry. “I’m working to ensure a strong SBIR program that will help Massachusetts firms like Infoscitex, KaZaK, and Scientific Systems survive the valley of death – the gap between the laboratory and the marketplace – and keep our state on the leading edge of innovation.”

Infoscitex Corporation, KaZaK Composites, and Scientific Systems all spoke about the importance of the SBIR program to turn their ideas into reality.

“I’ve been personally involved with the SBIR program intermittently since its inception,” said Stuart Haber, President and Chief Executive Officer of Infoscitex Corporation, based in Waltham. “During the last 3 years, the program has provided Infoscitex with opportunities to advance science and technology for the benefit of the U.S. government as well as the overall economy. Our efforts under the program will soon yield products ranging from reducing our dependency on oil to improving and extending the lives of our citizens. None of this would be even remotely possible without this dedicated and remarkable program.”

“KaZaK Composites is unlikely to have achieved its current success without the SBIR program,” said Dr. Jerry Fanucci, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kazak Composites, based in Woburn. “SBIR funding contributed significantly to KaZaK’s ability to develop and commercialize important material and manufacturing technologies, leading to one of the largest SBIR Phase III hardware awards in the history of the Navy’s program. KaZaK works in technologies not traditionally viewed as having high growth potential by VC companies. The SBIR program as currently structured allowed KaZaK to compete for and receive funding needed for start-up and growth on a level playing field with other traditionally-defined small businesses.”

“The SBIR program has helped our company grow into an industry leader, and we currently employ about 50 top level engineers and scientists,” said Mr. Kunal G. Mehra, Head of Strategy and Market Development for Scientific Systems Company, based in Woburn. “We are working on projects that will improve physician productivity by streamlining the interface for electronic records, and have developed a non-GPS navigation and precision targeting system for unmanned airplanes. Both of these projects would not have been possible without the SBIR program.”

Kerry, working with Senator Snowe, the ranking member of the Committee, will be working on comprehensive legislation to renew the SBIR program next year. On October 1, 2007, the Senate passed an amendment championed by Senator Kerry and Senator Levin (D-Mich.) to extend the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program through 2010 and to increase the transition and commercialization of products developed by small firms that participate in the program. The amendment will prevent a shut-down or delay of this important research and development program when it expires next year. The Senate also passed an amendment to extend a pilot program that Senators Kerry and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) created in 2005 to help firms transition their projects into commercialized products.