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Press Releases :: July 8, 2009

House Approves Bipartisan Legislation to Support Small High-Tech Entrepreneurs, Grow Jobs

(Washington, DC)—Today the House of Representatives approved H.R. 2965, the Enhancing Small Business Research and Innovation Act of 2009 by a vote of 386 to 41 to reauthorize and make needed updates to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

SBIR is the single largest federal program supporting small high-tech firms’ research and development (R&D) activities. It makes more than $2.2 billion in investments yearly in small high-tech businesses to develop commercial products and assist agencies in their mission-related research agendas. Government agencies with extramural R&D budgets of $100 million or more are required to set aside 2.5% of those funds to finance SBIR activity via competitive grants. The STTR program awards grants to joint partnerships between universities and small businesses. 

“Since SBIR’s beginning more than 25 years ago, we have learned about the significant contributions small high-tech start-up companies can make to growing our economy and creating jobs,” said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “In the current economic environment we need to do everything possible to support small high-tech entrepreneurs in the United States, and that’s the goal of the SBIR program.” 

“In today’s economy, small business is where innovation happens,” 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.”

The bill modernizes SBIR and STTR by increasing the award sizes for early and mid-stage development (Phase I and Phase II) to reflect the actual costs of doing high-tech research. It also increases the flexibility of the SBIR program by allowing cross-agency awards, allowing applicants to apply directly for Phase II funding, and allowing venture capital-backed small businesses to once again apply for awards.

“Given the economic changes we have seen during the past two decades, we need to update these programs to reflect the current economic realities of our increasingly competitive innovation economy,” said Wu.  “The National Academies recently released a report stating that venture capital-backed companies are important and do not crowd out other small businesses. The goal of SBIR is to encourage innovation; it is time we fix the administrative ruling of a single judge and support more innovative small businesses.” 

 

Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Vice Chair Paul Tonko (D-NY) spoke in support of the legislation on the House floor.

“America can and should be the most innovative and productive economy in the world. Our great strength is the American people—the American worker, the American entrepreneur, the American scientist,” said Miller.  “The SBIR and STTR programs tap directly into these great American resources, to the benefit of us all.”

“At a time when our national unemployment is at 9.5%, we should do everything in our power to strengthen small businesses that generate 70% of new jobs in our country,” said Energy and Environment Subcommittee Vice Chair Paul Tonko (D-NY).  “It is important that we continue to favor small, innovative businesses.  There’s simply no more effective way to boost our economy than to support the small business innovation that creates new jobs, new technologies and new American industries.” 

 

Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Vice Chair Kathy Dahlkemper (D-PA) offered an amendment that was approved as part of the manager’s amendment. It aims to improve the efficiency of water delivery systems and usage patterns in the United States by requiring an SBIR solicitation on this topic.

Water scarcity is a growing concern throughout the United States,” said Dahlkemper. “For many municipalities, intense competition for water and diminished supplies will force local water agencies to make difficult decisions on water allocations to protect essential ecosystem services. This includes implementing tough restrictions that could harm our agriculture industry while diminishing economic growth and job creation. In order for our country to achieve a more sustainable future for our children, we must act now to conserve one of our most precious resources–-our water supply. By improving the technology of our water delivery systems, we can maximize our limited water resources and reduce our energy use.” 

The House also approved an amendment from Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) that aims to help the small businesses that support NASA’s space shuttle program transition through the retirement of the shuttle.

“NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program has a strong history of engaging small businesses in developing technology for NASA needs and transferring technology for public benefit,” said Kosmas.  “In 2008, NASA’s SBIR awards went to 205 firms spanning 31 states.  NASA also identified 1,110 newly developed technologies last year that could lead to patenting and transfer.  Technologies developed by and for NASA lead to new products deployed in the fields of health and medicine, transportation, public safety, agriculture, industrial productivity, and of course, computer technology. Helping small businesses affected by the retirement of the shuttle program transition to work in related or unrelated industries will encourage cutting-edge R&D and preserve the unique workforce which has made us the world leader in innovation.”

H.R. 2965 is substantially the same bill which passed the House last year by an overwhelming majority.  The companion bill in the Senate is S. 1233.

For more information, including previous Committee work on SBIR, please see our website.

 

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