WASHINGTON--- Today Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, hosted a roundtable discussion about how to strengthen the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Participants discussed how to help businesses commercialize their research products and protect their intellectual property rights.

“The SBIR program was the catalyst behind pioneering products from artificial lungs to navigation systems for unmanned airplanes that have helped keep America on the competitive edge,” said Senator Kerry. “However, many small firms face problems making the final leap from the laboratory to the marketplace. We must keep the SBIR program strong so that our country’s health care technology and military equipment are at the forefront of innovation.”

Each year, the SBIR program provides over $2 billion in funding for research and development by small businesses. Eleven federal agencies participate in the program by setting aside 2.5 percent of their research and development budgets. 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 Senators Kerry and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to temporarily extend the program through 2010 and prevent a shut-down or delay of this important research and development program when it expires in September 2008. The Senate also passed an amendment to extend a Defense Department pilot program that Senators Kerry and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) created in 2005 to help firms transition their projects into commercialized products.