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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy
Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy
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Improving Management of Government Programs

  • Assessment of SBIR/STTR: STEP is regularly asked by Congress and the Executive branch to conduct independent, in-depth evaluations of federal technology programs and to recommend changes in focus and improvements in organization, management, and data collection. One recent example includes an assessment of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs of 5 federal R&D agencies including the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. Recommendations from the initial series of reports (1999-2009) were incorporated in the congressional reauthorization of the program in 2011.
  • International Recognition: The Academies’ reviews of SBIR have raised its profile around the world. SBIR-type programs have now been adopted by a number of European countries, Japan, South Korea, India, Chile and Brazil among others. The European Union has adopted SBIR as a key part of its Horizon 2020 innovation strategy. Other nations, including Vietnam and Egypt have expressed interest in establishing similar programs and are seeking our advice on implementing the program.
  • Proliferation of State Programs: Recognizing the value of SBIR in providing pre-seed stage capital and its role in incentivizing entrepreneurship, a number of states have established programs that support and feed into this $2.3 billion federal program. These programs variously coach small firms to apply for SBIR grants, match SBIR Phase I and Phase II awards, provide bridge funding, and support the commercialization of new technologies. STEP’s October 2014 workshop on SBIR and state programs included presentations from states such as Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, and Connecticut.
  • Data Needs: The demand for more analysis on SBIR, as well as the data made available by the STEP assessments of SBIR, are stimulating new academic research, as evidenced by the June 29, 2015 STEP workshop on the Economics of Entrepreneurship. This event featured new papers by prominent economists covering a variety of theoretical, empirical, and cross-country perspectives, some of which draw on analysis advanced through Academies reviews of the SBIR program.
  • Agency Impacts: The Report of the House Armed Services Committee on the National Defense Authorization Act (HR 1735) cited the Academies’ 2014 report, SBIR at DoD: “The committee recognizes the value that the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program provides to the Department of Defense in gaining access to new and innovative technologies that, when successful, can be integrated into new acquisition programs of record. As noted by the National Research Council in its most recent assessment of the Department of Defense SBIR program in 2014, these projects are highly successful at commercialization. Data from that study indicates that about 70 percent of Department of Defense Phase II projects reach the market. In addition, these projects ‘‘are in broad alignment with the agency’s mission needs,’’ and result in broader impacts on the innovation ecosystem, such as strong linkages with universities, support for graduate students, and licensing of technology from universities.”