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SPIE urges support of Senate SBIR proposals as expiration deadline nears

16 November 2011

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- Leaders of SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, are urging support for the Senate version of a bill that would extend the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for an additional eight years. The deadline for the program to expire is this Friday. If Congress takes no action, the program to aid small businesses and start-ups will end, eliminating a vital stream of new jobs and economic growth.

"There are countless examples of the positive impact the SBIR program has had on our economy -- it is a well-recognized fact that small business is the primary engine for job creation," said Robert Lieberman, SPIE Engineering, Science, and Technology Policy Committee Chair. "This is no time to jeopardize our economy further by eliminating the program.  A long-term reauthorization of the SBIR program is long overdue, and is critical to helping small businesses succeed in the current economic climate. Short-term assurances create an environment of insecurity for businesses."

SBIR funding has enabled many optics and photonics innovations that have helped improve quality of life as well as create jobs and help the economy, Lieberman said. Some examples:

  • Under a DARPA-funded SBIR program, Nanosolar developed improved production techniques to create high-efficiency solar cells that are lightweight, flexible, durable,cheap, and easy to produce.
  • Physical Optics Corporation came up with HoloLink technology that significantly increases bandwidth transmission over existing fiber networks. The company currently holds 88 patents and has others pending, most based on research that was originally funded under SBIR.
  • OPTICS 1 developed night-vision goggle simulators under SBIR, leading to commercialization of a head-mounted display for professional use. That was followed by dozens of SBIR contracts serving the medical, industrial, and entertainment industries.

A letter signed by 11 Senators last month asked that the House omit sections of H.R. 1425, the House version of the SBIR Reauthorization bill, and thereby extend the program for another 8 years and forego some additional limits on the amounts of awards.

The Senate-backed compromises were agreed to by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, Biotechnology Industry Organization, and other major SBIR groups in December 2010.

Their letter can be viewed on the SBIR Gateway.

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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