Funding reauthorization will stabilize SBIR programs
BELLINGHAM, Wash. – The US House
committee leaders and the Senate recently
reached an agreement to reauthorize funding for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs for
another six years, which will help to stabilize and boost the photonics industry.
Legislation to reauthorize the programs
– which are designed to spur technology
innovation within the small-business
R&D community – will be included as an
amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets the
annual budget for the US Department of
“The SBIR and STTR programs are two
of government’s most effective programs
for spurring innovative ideas,” said House
Small Business Committee Chairman Sam
Graves (R-Missouri). “This deal not only
gives the program stability, but it also im-
proves the program by opening it up to
more companies regardless of their finan-
cial structure, it increases the Phase I and
II award sizes, and it puts a stronger em-
phasis on commercialization.”
Key points of the agreement include
increasing venture capital participation to
25 percent for the National Institutes of
Health, the US Department of Energy
and the National Science Foundation, and
15 percent for the other participating fed-
eral agencies; raising Phase I and Phase II
award levels for the first time since 1982;
more access for small businesses to com-
pete for R&D funds; greater coordination
between the Small Business Administra-
tion and the participating agencies; and
performance-based standards that encour-
age companies to focus on commercializa-
tion through Phase III of the program.
House Science, Space and Technol-
ogy Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-
Texas) said the agreement “will ensure the
greatest return on taxpayer investment by
helping us combat waste, fraud and
The news was warmly received by pho-
tonics industry professionals, including
SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs, who pointed
out that the programs are admired around
“Many of our 180,000-person con-
stituency work in small companies en-
gaged in the high-technology business of
photonics, and will greatly benefit from
the stabilization and expansion of this pro-
gram,” said Robert Lieberman, chair of
the SPIE Engineering, Science and Tech-
nology Policy committee. “The industry as
a whole – and the world economy – will
benefit as well.”
The six-year extension will provide
needed stability for companies wanting to
participate, Lieberman added. “SBIR-
initiated projects create photonics jobs
and products for applications ranging from
defense and security to biomedical diag-
nostics,” he said. “Participating companies
partner with other industry and academia
in developing innovations that improve
quality of life everywhere.”
The House and Senate conference com-
mittee finished its work on the NDAA in
mid-December, and it passed with a final
vote of 283-186 in the House and 86-13 in
QUALIFYING FOR SBIR
A business must qualify as a small business, as defined by the federal government,
to participate in the SBIR program. A small business is eligible if:
• It has 500 or fewer employees.
• It is a for-profit and is independently owned and operated.
• Its principal place of business is in the US.
• It is at least 51 percent owned by US citizens.
The following criteria also must be met:
• The proposing firm must be the primary employer of the principal investigator
involved in the research.
• All work on the project must be done within the US.
• Joint ventures and limited partnerships are permitted, but two-thirds of
Phase I and one-half of Phase II work must be accomplished by the
QUALIFYING FOR STTR
For an STTR award:
• The small business must qualify as a small business. (Joint ventures and
limited partnerships are permitted for the small business, provided that the
entity so created qualifies as a small business.)
• The research institution must be a nonprofit university or college; a nonprofit
institution owned and operated exclusively for scientific or educational
purposes; or a contractor-operated FFRDC (federally funded R&D center).
• The small business must carry out at least 40 percent of the STTR project.
• The research institution must perform at least 30 percent of the effort.
• The business and the research institution must negotiate a written agreement
apportioning intellectual property.
• Research work in Phase I and Phase II must be performed by the small
business and the research institution in the US.
Source: An Explanation of SBIR, Jade Research Corp., http://sbir.us/library/overview.html