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Press Releases :: May 4, 2011

Committee Approves Small Business Legislation

Democratic Efforts to Strengthen Outreach and Preserve U.S. Jobs Blocked

Washington, DC – (Wednesday, May 04, 2011) Today, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology approved by voice vote H.R. 1425, the Creating Jobs Through Small Business Innovation Act of 2011.  The bill reauthorizes the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. 

“We all recognize the important role that small businesses play in fueling technological innovation and creating jobs in the United States,” said Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).  “We should be doing all that we can to foster a vibrant small business community and give our small businesses the tools that they need to succeed.  The SBIR and STTR programs are such tools.  The programs have been critically important to fostering innovation by small businesses.” 

The Creating Jobs Through Small Business Innovation Act of 2011 was introduced on April 7, 2011 with Ranking Member Johnson and Technology and Innovation Subcommittee Ranking Member David Wu (D-OR) as original cosponsors.  It was approved by the Technology and Innovation Subcommittee on April 13, 2011 by voice vote.  The bill makes several changes to the SBIR and STTR programs to modernize them and make them more efficient and effective.  Among other things, the bill reinstates eligibility for venture-capital backed small businesses, increases Phase I and Phase II award sizes, provides agencies with enhanced flexibility to carry out their programs, provides for improved oversight and evaluation, streamlines and condenses the application process, and expands commercialization efforts. 
 
During the markup, Ranking Member Johnson was joined by Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) in offering a cost-neutral amendment requiring agencies that participate in the pilot program for administrative, oversight and contract processing costs to use a portion of the allowable funds for outreach and technical assistance activities directed at underrepresented small businesses.  Small businesses targeted by the amendment included those owned by veterans, women, and minorities and those located in geographic areas underrepresented in the programs, including rural areas, and areas with an unemployment rate that exceeds the national unemployment rate. 

“I believe that innovation can come from anywhere and that all small businesses – not just a small subset of small businesses – are capable of developing innovative new technologies,” said Ranking Member Johnson. “And I think that our chances of getting game-changing innovation are significantly increased if the SBIR applicant pool is larger and more diverse.  We need to do a better job of reaching out to small businesses that have traditionally been underrepresented in the SBIR program.”

One of the four stated congressional objectives of the SBIR program is to increase participation by woman- and minority-owned small businesses.  In its 2008 evaluation of the SBIR program, the National Research Council found that the program was not achieving this objective and recommended that targeted outreach be developed to improve the participation rates of woman- and minority-owned small businesses.  The amendment was defeated on a largely party-line vote of 15-17. 

Several other Democratic Members of the Committee offered amendments during today’s markup.  The Committee approved by voice vote an amendment by Representative Wu to add the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to the category of agencies able to spend a greater percentage of their SBIR budget on venture capital-backed small businesses and an amendment by Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) requiring the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an evaluation of the STTR program.  The Committee also approved, on a bipartisan vote of 16-14, an amendment by Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) to establish a proof of concept pilot program for researchers from universities and research institutions at the National Institutes of Health. 

The Committee also rejected along party lines an amendment by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) to prohibit foreign owned small businesses from participating in the programs and an amendment by Representative Wu to extend the authorization period for two additional years. 
 


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