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428A Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 10:00am EST

Chairman David Vitter

Good morning and thank you for joining me today for the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Hearing on reauthorizing the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. We are going to be hearing from two panels of federal officials and also stakeholders. I want to thank all of our witnesses for being here today.

While small businesses are more easily able to adapt to market changes and drive the innovation sector of the economy, it is often very difficult for smaller firms and entrepreneurs to find funding for their new ideas, especially in the critical early stages of research and development.

That’s why the very existence of the SBIR and STTR programs are crucial. These programs are vital to the success of many small businesses and have ultimately helped create thousands of new jobs by fostering innovation and stimulating the economy through public-private partnerships.

They exist to foster innovation and to facilitate public-private partnerships so that firms have the funding they need to develop new technologies and innovations that help federal agencies meet their research and development needs. The programs not only create jobs, but can also lead to a path for commercialization for many participating firms.

These programs have been front and center in improving our nation’s capacity to innovate. Over the course of the SBIR program history from 1982-2014, federal agencies have made 152,542 SBIR awards to small businesses to develop innovative technologies. The total amount awarded through SBIR is $42 billion.

In 2014 alone, SBIR has given 5,496 Phase I & Phase II SBIR/STTR awards worth $2.2 billion. The SBA is currently averaging 5,000 awards per year.

Our discussion this morning will examine the SBIR/STTR programs and why they are an effective way to meet national needs while jumpstarting entrepreneurs, growing our economy, and creating jobs. The hearing will focus on the successful increase of innovation and how the incentive to commercialize these technologies helps our country’s general economy as well as our national security.

As many of you all know, Congress last reauthorized the programs in 2011 for a period of 6 years. The programs are currently set to expire on September 30, 2017. It was a tumultuous process to complete the reauthorization. Participating agencies and firms had to endure a process that took 3 years and 14 short-term extensions. I am optimistic that together with Ranking Member Shaheen, we will work to avoid the types of delays that can cripple innovation and create uncertainty that plagues many small businesses. Reauthorizing these programs this year will ensure stability and foster an environment of innovative entrepreneurship by directing more than $2 billion annually in federal research and development (R&D) funding to the nation’s small firms that are most likely to create jobs and commercialize their products.

SBIR has been a priority of mine this Congress. My bill, S. 2136, the Improving Small Business Innovative Research and Technologies Act was the only SBIR-related bill reported out of the Committee so far this Congress. This bill establishes the Regional SBIR State Collaborative Initiative Pilot Program that was proposed by universities in Louisiana and Mississippi, namely LSU, Ole Miss, and MSU.

The pilot program provides one-year renewable grants of up to $300,000 to a regional collaborative to address the needs of small businesses in order to: (1) be more competitive in the proposal and selection process for SBIR and STTR Program awards, and (2) increase technology transfer and commercialization. I’m grateful to have the support and guidance of Senator Shaheen and look forward to working with her to ensure this program will be included in the reauthorization bill.

Now, let’s get today’s conversation started. I welcome our expert panelists who will inform us of the value of the SBIR and STTR programs – how it has made a difference in their work and in the innovative advances of our nation – and provide us with their thoughts and opinions on reauthorization.

Again, I’d like to thank everyone for being here today and look forward to our discussion. With that, I’d like to turn it over to our Ranking Member, Senator Shaheen.