Congress Advances Legislation to Grow, Make Permanent, the SBIR/STTR Programs

In case you hadn’t heard the latest news on the SBIR/STTR programs coming out of Washington over the last couple of weeks, there are some pretty significant things happening over the future of both programs that all contractors and grantees should know about…

Legislation is moving through both houses of Congress that would not only make the programs permanent (no more last minute, “kick the can down the road”, nail-biting, Continuing Resolution extensions), but they would also raise the current 3% SBIR set-aside significantly over the next several years. And we are not talking chump change here; the Senate’s version (S. 2812), would double the set-aside to a whopping 6% by 2028, while the more “conservative” House of Representative’s version (H.R. 4783), would still increase the current set-aside to 4.5% by 2022. The STTR program (now at 0.45%), would see proportionally smaller gains in the House bill, and only grow to 0.6% by 2022, though the Senate proposes an even larger (proportional growth) to 1%.

News reports have indicated that the bill has growing support, and has already cleared a hurdle in the Senate, where it has passed through a committee and has been placed on the Senate’s Legislative Calendar.

Not Welcome News To All?

While this is great news for government contractors and grantees (after all, we are talking about doubling the funding for these programs ---programs that are often the lifeblood and driving force of innovation at thousands of companies across the country each year), this legislation is actually causing quite a stir---and not just from the usual suspects.

As it turns out, advocates for the Small Businesses Community and the Research Community in the US are at odds over the legislation.

Many in the Research Community are concerned that the increase would result in fewer research opportunities for investigators, as it comes directly out of the awarding Agency’s budget, which would most likely mean fewer non-SBIR/STTR research contracts and significantly less “non SBIR/STTR” funding available. Others are also worried that the legislation comes at the wrong time, because: “The proposed increases … would be implemented when future funding levels for the federal science agencies are very uncertain.”

Who knows how this will shake out, but we do know this: if either version of the legislation passes, it will mean a huge victory for SBIR/STTTR contractors and grantees.

To learn more about this issue, take a look at a great article published in the Journal Science.  This piece explores the legislation (and the fight it is causing between the Small Business and Research Communities), and just why opinions are so starkly different from one side to the other.