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SPIE applauds Congress for support of SBIR reauthorization

14 December 2011

BELLILNGHAM, Washington, USA -- SPIE leaders they were pleased with the announcement earlier this week by House committee leaders that they had successfully negotiated a deal with the Senate  to reauthorize funding for the SBIR/STTR programs for another six years. SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer Program) are designed to spur technology innovation within the small-business R&D community.

House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Missouri) and House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-Texas) announced the deal Monday evening, saying that legislation to reauthorize the program will be included as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which sets the annual budget for the Department of Defense.

"SPIE is pleased that Congress has reached this compromise," said Robert Lieberman, Chair of the SPIE Engineering, Science, and Technology Policy (ESTeP) committee. "Many of our 180,000-person constituency work in small companies engaged in the high-technology business of photonics, and will greatly benefit from the stabilization and expansion of this program. The industry as a whole and the world economy will benefit as well."

Lieberman said that the six-year extension will provide needed stability for companies wanting to participate.

"SBIR-initiated projects create photonics jobs and products for applications ranging from defense and security to biomedical diagnostics," Lieberman said. "Participating companies partner with other industry and academia in developing innovations that improve quality of life everywhere."

"We are delighted that this important part of the job-creating science-to-market chain has been firmly reinstated and even improved," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "The SBIR/STTR programs are admired worldwide. SPIE has worked hard to ensure these programs improve and continue, and has found strong support in Congress. I am grateful for the work of Robert Lieberman, our policy committee chair, and many other SPIE Members who contacted their Congressional representatives in person, or by phone, mail or email. Their inputs to the decision-making process have been extremely important."

"Because of this deal, businesses will have peace of mind for the next six years," said Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), chair of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee and a longtime advocate for SBIR programs. "The nation's innovators will have more access to federal research dollars, and the process by which they get the funding will be more efficient because we cut down the time for final decisions and disbursements."

"The SBIR and STTR programs are one of government's most effective programs for spurring innovative ideas," Graves said. "This deal not only gives the program stability, but it improves the program by opening it up to more companies regardless of their financial structure, it increases the Phase I and II award sizes, and it puts a stronger emphasis on commercialization."

Hall said the agreement "will ensure the greatest return on taxpayer investment by helping us combat waste, fraud and abuse."

Among key points in the agreement:

  • Reauthorization for six years
  • Greater participation among small businesses with significant private capital support, increasing venture capital participation to 25% for the National Institute of Health, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation and 15% for the other participating federal agencies
  • Increasing Phase I and Phase II award levels, which have not been raised since 1982
  • Increasing SBIR and STTR allocations to allow more access for small businesses to compete for R&D funds
  • Requirements for greater coordination between the SBA and the participating agencies to combat waste, fraud, and abuse within the SBIR and STTR programs
  • Introducing performance-based standards to encourage companies to focus on commercialization through Phase III of the program.

The House and Senate conference committee  is expected to finish its work on the NDAA  by Thursday (15 December), setting it up for a final vote of both houses of Congress sometime this week before sending the bill to the White House  for the President's signature.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 180,000 constituents from 168 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. SPIE provided over $2.3 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2010.


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