While the Nation Slept

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While the Nation Slept

Metzger David

What’s Happening on SBIR/STTR

In the next month or so, I will be publishing a book on the struggles of small innovative firms in the U.S. It tells about the unheralded contributions these firm make to our economy and way of life, but also about the struggles these firm suffer in the arduous journey from idea to product. A parallel story run through it – the struggles of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which in recent years has had its own struggle to survive. The reauthorization of the 2000 SBIR/STTR act took three years, endured 14 temporary reauthorizations, and did not end until December 31, 2011. Fortunately, Congress has already begun the reauthorization of these programs, even though the current act will not sunset until September 30, 2017.

The proposed Senate and House bills are very different, and there is no doubt they will trigger vigorous debate. The Senate bill, S. 2793, provides for permanent reauthorization of the program, a badly need reform of the temporary reauthorizations we have seen in recent years. The House bill contains an unfortunate five year sunset provision, which would be the shortest duration for a reauthorization in the history of these vital programs. The Senate bill, S. 2793, would increase the set aside to 3.5 percent starting in 2018 (from the 2017 level of 3.2 percent). The Senate bill would escalate the set aside to 6.0 percent in 2028 and thereafter for non-defense agencies. The words “and thereafter” seem to imply a permanent reauthorization. Oddly, though, the Senate bill creates a lesser set aside for Department of Defense agencies. For defense agencies, the Senate bill decreases the set aside from the 2017 level of 3.2 percent to 2.5 percent for 2018, a serious step backwards for the program. The set aside for defense agencies would increase to only 5.0 percent by 2028 and thereafter. This differentiation between non-defense and defense agencies should be the subject of intense scrutiny by the SBIR/STTR community as debate on these bills begins. The House bill, H.R. 4783, does not discriminate between defense and non-defense agencies. The set aside would begin at 3.46 percent in 2018, which is an increase over the 2017 level of 3.2 percent. However, the House bill would only take the set aside to 4.5 percent by 2022, when the House bill would sunset the reauthorization. There are many other aspects of these bills that are worth close scrutiny.

An additional Senate bill, S. 2792, would reauthorize the defense Rapid Innovation Program. The bill is a bare bones reauthorization of the program. It seems to provide the Department of Defense slightly more flexibility in making these technology insertions.

In short, the SBIR/STTR community has much to discuss about these bills in the near future as they proceed through committee hearings and to their respective floors for vote, and then to conference. We must hope that Congress can accomplish this reauthorization without the disruptive 14 temporary reauthorizations it resorted to in the last reauthorization cycle. I hope to maintain a running commentary on these bills, and other SBIR/STTR issues, as they arise. I invite your comments, and look forward to responding to them.

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2 responses to “What’s Happening on SBIR/STTR”

  1. Kevin Burns says:

    Hi Dave,
    Have you also looked at the published changes to the Policy Directive. While there are a few good things (e.g. clarify that delivered equipment has data rights protection), there are elements that will substantially change and despite the 12 year data rights offer I believe the new PD will effectively damage SBIR data rights, Phase III preference, and the current ready communication among agency and SBIR company. I’d love to get in direct contact with you to interact further, and figure out how to better defend the program.
    PS – bought your book; looking forward to it.

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