Committee Reviews Proposal to Modernize SBIR Program – Post No. 031408 – 3

Video| Small Business Committee

House of Representative Seal

News From the
Committee on Small Business
Nydia M. Velázquez, Chairwoman

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is the largest government-wide R&D initiative in existence. Over the past 25 years, it has supported many of the nation’s most successful entrepreneurial undertakings, allowing small business innovation to grow into such successful enterprises as Amgen, Qualcomm and Symantec. Today, the House Committee on Small Business continued its work to modernize the program and heard from expert witnesses regarding draft reauthorizing legislation. It also heard from SBA’s Steven Preston, whom the Committee had to subpoena-making him the first sitting Administrator to come before the panel in such a manner.

“Small firms help our economy grow by bringing cutting-edge goods and services to market. For some, the initial research and development capital to make this possible comes from SBIR. But for too many others, the path remains closed,” said Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez. “Our legislation addresses the underlying causes of this problem, and ensures advances made possible by entrepreneurs will be leveraged more effectively for the benefit of the country.”

The SBIR initiative was created by Congress in 1982. At the time, the Internet was over a decade from development, airbags in cars were an exception, and the average cell phone weighed more than two pounds. Several modifications were made to the law in 2000, but-as witnesses have noted during prior Committee hearings-for a program meant to spur American innovation, SBIR remains out of step with the realities of today’s technology-centered world.

“Times have certainly changed, but our commitment to progress and the strengthening of our small business economy endures,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “Our proposal increases the number of firms eligible to participate in SBIR and erases the barriers many entrepreneurs face in accessing R&D capital. Just as importantly, it increases competition within the program and ensures the revolutionary technology developed by small businesses can make it into the hands of consumers.”

In reviewing the draft legislation, today’s witnesses expressed particular support for making SBIR’s guidelines more flexible. The Committee’s bill expands the range of small businesses that can participate in the program. It also provides them with technical assistance, and allows entrepreneurs to leverage private sector funding. The result is an initiative that is more efficient and robust. In turn, SBIR would help small firms grow the economy, and offer greater benefits to the public.

“By filling the holes in SBIR’s authorizing legislation, we are not just making the program better, we are ensuring it will yield greater returns for both small businesses and the average citizen,” said Chairwoman Velázquez. “That’s the kind of win-win proposition this panel is committed to, and we are looking forward to bringing the legislation before the rest of Congress.”

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