(Washington, DC)—Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology held a markup on three bipartisan bills: H.R. 2965, the Enhancing Small Business Research and Innovation Act of 2009; H.R. 2729, to authorize the designation of National Environmental Research Parks by the Secretary of Energy, and for other purposes; and H.R. 1622, to provide for a program of research, development, and demonstration on natural gas vehicles.
The Enhancing Small Business Research and Innovation Act updates the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) program, which assists small high-tech businesses in developing commercial products. The updates to the program reflect the current set of challenges confronting small high-tech entrepreneurs and are based on recommendations from witnesses during hearings on the program. This bill reauthorizes the SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) programs through 2011 and is similar to legislation that passed the House in 2008.
“This is one of the most significant bills the Committee will likely address in this Congress,” said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “Since SBIR’s beginning more than 25 years ago, we have learned about the significant contributions small high-tech start-up companies can have to our economic and employment growth – AmGen, Apple, Microsoft, Genetech, and Research-in-Motion all started as small high-tech entrepreneurial firms. In the current economic environment we need to do everything possible to support small high-tech entrepreneurs in the United States, which is the goal of the SBIR program.”
“At more than $2.3 billion per year, the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs comprise the largest source of federal support for technological innovation in the private sector,” said bill cosponsor and Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Chairman David Wu (D-OR). “Given the current economic climate, we need robust SBIR and STTR programs to create the next generation of companies that will provide high-paying jobs and grow our economy.”
“Small firms are important drivers of advanced technology and SBIR and STTR are the life blood of these small companies,” said Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI). “Michigan companies compete favorably for SBIR awards, particularly in the Department of Defense Program. Over 400 Michigan companies have received SBIR awards over the years and many new companies have been launched as a result.”
The Committee accepted an amendment from the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation Ranking Member Adrian Smith (R-NE).
The Committee also advanced legislation to formally authorize seven National Environmental Research Parks supported by the Department of Energy (DOE).
“These Parks are a truly unique national resource,” said Gordon. “They provide large tracts of undisturbed land that enable long-term research in environmental sciences, climate change, and the development and testing of methods to clean up past pollution.”
“The Research Parks are one of our nation’s most valuable environmental research assets, and it is time for them to be recognized in law and explicitly provided the resources they need to continue their valuable work,” said bill author and Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Vice Chairman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM). “This legislation supports the Parks’ research and monitoring programs. It authorizes core funding that will ensure that they can continue the important work they already perform, and provide opportunities to expand on new research and energy development initiatives as well. This bill also encourages environmental science education and public outreach activities, and it establishes a Research Parks coordinator that will assist the Parks in collaborating with each other.”
The Committee accepted amendments from the Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), which ensures that other DOE-relevant activities will be able to continue on the Parks,and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), which adds a new section allowing the Parks to provide educational opportunities through an existing summer educational program at DOE.
“Providing educational opportunities at the research parks will help bring science to life for teachers and students,” said Johnson. “The hands-on experience will enrich teachers' subject knowledge, and it will help students see environmental research as an attractive career path. With my amendment, I hope to facilitate a stronger relationship between research park scientists and schools, particularly high-needs schools.”
The Committee advanced a third bill, HR 1622, which was authored by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK) and co-sponsored by Ranking Member Hall. The legislation reauthorizes DOE’s research, development, and demonstration program in natural gas powered vehicles and related infrastructure.
“The vehicle fleet of the future will include a diverse range of fuels and vehicle technologies,” said Gordon. “And since it is both cleaner than petroleum and domestically available, Natural gas will likely play an important role in a more sustainable transportation sector.”
The Committee accepted an amendment from the Ranking Member Hall.
For more information, including about the Committee’s work on SBIR, please see our website.