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SBIR Program Diversity and Assessment Challenges: Report of a Symposium
measure outcomes at NIH against its specific goals. He also asked whether the NIH had analyzed such data and whether it was available to the public.
Jo Anne Goodnight of NIH responded to the three questions with “Yes, yes, and yes.” She said that a number of studies had already been done on the program, basically measuring it against the goals identified in the initial legislation. Those studies were in report form and available from the GAO, SBA, and others. The studies also showed that NIH, which is rarely if ever the customer, had one of the highest rates of commercialization among SBIR agencies.
In addition, the NIH did collect extensive data on its own R&D investments, and was at the end of a study of its Phase II awardees. She said that the agency would be happy to share those data and outcomes. Some other agencies, including some of the smaller ones, had also done their own SBIR evaluations. She suggested that their data should be factored into the recommendations that emerge from the study, because those recommendations would affect all ten SBIR agencies as well as the SBA—not just the five largest. The other reason to look at all ten, she said, was that it was now possible to fund a Phase II award to a company whose Phase I funding came from a different agency. She demonstrated how this new practice could lead to erroneous study results unless all agencies are included. For example, one might see that a company received only a Phase I grant from a particular agency and conclude that it failed to get a Phase II grant. In fact, that company might have received a Phase II award from a different agency and gone on to be successful.
“We do have data like this,” she reiterated, and “we have success stories. We are more than happy to share them. That’s the point of assimilating the data the agencies have already collected and not going back to the companies to ask the same questions.”
Extending the Study
James Gallup, SBIR program manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, referred to Mr. Turner’s comment that it might be impractical for the study panel to evaluate all ten SBIR agencies. He said that he agreed with Ms. Goodnight’s reason for trying to look at all of the ten. As the EPA SBIR program manager, he said, he could see “really significant” differences between the large and small agencies, and saw “some things the small agencies can do that will help us greatly.” He called for clear guidance from the very beginning of the study about just how many agencies should be included.
Jim Turner of the House Science Committee responded that “we’ve thrown an impossible job at the committee, and I’m sure it will be sorted out in a wise way, probably through a compromise.” He did point out that the largest programs are some 200 to 300 times the size of the smallest programs, and that it would be impractical to spend equal amounts of time on the smallest ones. He thanked the panel for taking on this challenge.