House subcommittees discuss how federal programs help drive innovation

Two House subcommittees convened last week to discuss the need for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs to drive innovation.

Speakers at the hearing, hosted by the House Small Business Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce and the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology, said these federal programs been instrumental in launching tech companies, and in some cases industries.

“Technological breakthroughs and the entrepreneurship it spurs build our economy by finding state-of-the-art solutions to difficult problems and capitalizing on those new products,” Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Steve Knight said. “In this era of globalization, making it easier for small businesses to develop and commercialize new, innovative products is essential not only for America’s competitiveness, but for its national security as well. This is why programs like SBIR and STTR are so important. The SBIR and STTR programs bridge the gap between the fantastical and the practical; building our economy and improving the function of the federal government in the process.”

Speaker Joe Shephard, associate administrator, Office of Investment and Innovation at the Small Business Administration, said these programs, which reach as far back as 1982, has succeeded in creating many success stories.

“Examples include the cell phone technology of Qualcomm to the advances in robotics and automation of iRobot to lifesaving medicines from Biogen/IDEC and MedImmune, and there are thousands of other successful firms across the country because of this catalytic program,” Shephard said.

John Neumann, director of natural resources and environment at the United States Government Accountability Office, said federal agencies have awarded an average of about $2 billion a year through these programs and a total of more than $40 billion for 150,000 contracts and grants since their inception in 1982 (SBIR) and 1992 (STTR).

“I believe it is critical to appreciate how incredibly important it is for our country to be world leaders in a strong R&D culture and how much the SBIR and STTR Programs have been such an important piece of that culture,” Ron Shroder, president and CEO of Frontier Technologies, said. “In addition, I believe Congress has been equally important to the program’s success. Over the years, you and your predecessors have reauthorized the law and made changes to the program that have had a very substantial impact,” Shroder added.