History of the SBIR/STTR program

Recently Laurie Wilson and I gave a presentation at the local NDIA meeting about the SBIR/STTR program.  I got to thinking that there are probably a lot of people out there that don't know the full story of the programs.  I thought it might be worthwhile to go over the history of the program here briefly.  In a future blog, we may go into more details but this is a quick overview.

Interestingly enough, President Nixon directed the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create a program called Research Applied to National Needs (or RANN) in 1973.  The program started out as only a Small Business Innovation Research (or SBIR) program.  It got it's start as a pilot program in the National Science Foundation in the 1970's.  Their Administrative Officer of RANN (Roland Tibbetts) is generally recognized as the "father of the SBIR" program.  The program became multi-agency with passage of the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982.  The program was defined as having 2 broad goals when it started in 1982: 1) To more effectively meet R&D needs by utilizing small innovative firms & 2) To attract private capital to commercialize the results of federal research.  The act further defined 4 specific goals: 1) To Stimulate US Technological Innovation, 2) To use small business to meet Federal R&D needs, 3) To Increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal R&D & 4) To foster & encourage participation by socially disadvantaged small business concerns. 

Some of the early success stories from the program include Qualcomm and Symantec.  Symantec was one of the first recipients of  SBIR funds from the NSF in 1979.  This small company used the technology developed with the Phase I and Phase II efforts to go on to grow the company to a large multi-billion dollar software company.  The Qualcomm story is equally impressive.  Qualcomm received as many as 12 SBIR’s in their development and turned that into  a multi-billion dollar telecommunications company. The program was re-authorized in 1992 with the passage of the Small Business Research and Development Enhancement Act of 1992.  In 2000 the program was re-authorized until 9/2009 by the Small Business Innovation Research Program Reauthorization Act of 2000. 

The STTR program was initialized in 1992 by passage of the Small Business Technology Transfer Act of 1992.  It was re-authorized with the Small Business Reauthorization Act of 1997 and again with the Small Business Technology Transfer Program Reauthorization Act of 2001. 

In 2009 congress could not agree on the re-authorization and the SBIR/STTR program was authorized by a series of Continuing Resolutions issued by Congress.  Finally in December of 2011 the SBIR/STTR program was re-authorized by the 2012 Defense Authorization Act and is authorized until FY2017.

Next week I will talk about the authorization amounts in the program and how it has grown in scope over the years. 



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