House Science Committee, Subcommittee on Research and Technology Holds Hearing on “America’s Seed Fund: A Review of SBIR and STTR”

Feb 10, 2020

by ASME.org

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Subcommittee on Research and Technology, recently held a hearing entitled “America’s Seed Fund: A Review of SBIR and STTR.” The hearing examined two important programs aimed at catalyzing the commercialization of Federal research accomplishments to further American growth: SBIR, the Small Business Innovation Research program, and STTR, the Small Business Technology Transfer program. Subcommittee Chairwomen Haley Stevens (D-MI) opened the hearing by referring to a bipartisan bill that she had introduced earlier this Congress aimed strengthening the SBIR and STTR programs: H.R. 3774, The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Improvements Act of 2019. This bill would encourage agencies to give high priority to funding small manufacturers and cybersecurity firms, which Chairwoman Stevens says “is critical for our economic and national security for the U.S. to maintain a domestic manufacturing base and to develop the best cybersecurity tools for all businesses.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Baird (R-IN), who introduced H.R. 3774 along with Chairwomen Stevens, too delivered an opening statement, reiterating what the Chairwomen said about further strengthen these small business technology commercialization programs. Ranking Member Baird did note that the SBIR program is currently funded at $2.7 billion annually, and STTR is funded at $368 million annually, recognizing how important it is for Congress to monitor these programs to ensure they are functioning efficiently to make the most of taxpayer dollars invested.

The panel of expert witnesses included:

  • Dr. Dawn Tilbury, Assistant Director, Directorate of Engineering; National Science Foundation (managing NSF’s SBIR and STTR programs)
  • Dr. Maryann Feldman, S.K. Heninger Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Department of Public Policy; Adjunct Professor of Finance, Kenan-Flagler Business School; Faculty Director, CREATE, Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise; The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Mr. Nicholas Cucinelli, Chief Executive Officer, Endectra LLC
  • Dr. Johnny Park, Chief Executive Officer, Wabash Heartland Innovation Network

Dr. Tidbury spoke about how the SBIR and STTR programs are part of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) strategy to stimulate innovation and address societal needs through the commercialization of the results of fundamental research. During the question and answer session after testimpny was given, Ranking Member Baird asked Dr. Tidbury, “What steps does NSF take in measuring the success of the two programs?” Dr. Tidbury in turn discussed how NSF qualifies success—including tracking how many small businesses NSF invests in then go on to be acquired—but also discussed how NSF is actively making changes to make the program more efficient, such as now allowing businesses who wish to submit a proposal to first share a short “pitch” with the agency, so that the business does not have to unnecessarily invest time and effort into developing a full proposal if their project is not appropriate for NSF.

To view the entire hearing, please visit: https://science.house.gov/hearings/americas-seed-fund-a-review-of-sbir-and-sttr.

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