Good morning. I want to welcome each of you to the roundtable this morning and thank you for taking the time to be here. As most of you know, the Small Business Innovation Research program, more commonly referred to as the S B I R program, expires next year, on September 30, 2008. The Committee under Senator Snowe’s leadership did a lot of work last year to move us towards reauthorizing the program, and this roundtable builds on that.

Today’s roundtable is important because Dr. Charles Wessner will present the findings and recommendations of the National Academies’ extensive review of the SBIR program. Congress instructed the National Academies to do this study in 2000, as part of the last SBIR reauthorization bill, and it would be a waste to proceed with reauthorization without learning all that we can from its findings. I thank Dr. Wessner and his colleagues, those on the study’s Committee, the five SBIR agencies that paid for and participated in the study, and the firms that cooperated with the researchers, for their help. Seven years is a long time, and I appreciate the endurance.

I know there was a lot of skepticism about getting a fair assessment of the SBIR program when Congress authorized the study, but the summary leads me to believe that most will be relieved with the conclusions and credit Dr. Wessner and his team for being fair and objective. Without stealing all of Dr. Wessner’s thunder, I will tell you that it is very gratifying that the study concluded the SBIR program is an effective public-private partnership. I am particularly impressed by the findings that 20 percent of the SBIR awards lead to the founding of new firms, and that one third of all the applicants each year are new to the program. These are good signs that the program accomplishes innovation and economic development. It’s no secret that firms in my state do very well in the program – the second best in the nation – and no surprise that I have always supported the program. Massachusetts firms have competed for and won more than 10,000 awards, totaling almost $3 billion. These partnerships have proven good for the country and for the economy.

To complement the Committee’s reauthorization review, we have also invited today the RAND National Defense Institute’s Bruce Held to tell us about its findings from the study it did of the Department of Defense’s SBIR program.

At this table, I am proud to recognize Dr. Mike Squillante, of Radiation Monitoring Devices (RMD), based in Watertown, Massachusetts. His company has developed technologies that made breast cancer surgery less invasive and more precise and improved heart surgery procedures. They also developed and commercialized a lead paint detector. Beyond the scientific advances, RMD is a successful manufacturer, in a time when we have seen manufacturing on the decline, and RMD is a good corporate neighbor, having chosen to locate in an old building that might otherwise be vacant.

For these reasons and more, the SBIR model is a good one that needs to be continued. What can we do to make it more effective? That is the question.

I look forward to Dr. Wessner’s presentation. In my absence, staff will moderate the discussion, with Kevin Wheeler of my staff and Erik Necchiai of Senator Snowe’s staff. In fact, let me welcome Erik, who is new to the Committee, and also recently married and a survivor of the bar exam.

To lay a few ground rules for the discussion, if you would like to make a comment, signal us by standing your name plate on its end. I ask that you keep your comments concise so that everyone gets to weigh in, and I ask that we keep the discussion to the study’s findings and recommendations and the relevant portions of the SBIR provisions from last year’s bill. We have specifically asked for participants to save any comments regarding venture capital and its role in the program for a different discussion. That issue is important, but the study makes no recommendations on that topic, and we need more time and the participation of other groups in order to work through it. This roundtable is only the first step in the reauthorization process of the SBIR program in this Congress, and I have committed to Senators Snowe and Bond that we will have another venue to discuss the VC issue.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to say a special welcome to Roland Tibbetts, the founder of this program. Roland, I understand that you too were recently married. Congratulations. Thank you for being here.

With that, I turn to Dr. Wessner and make my apologies now that I cannot stay for the entire discussion.