gram.2 Mandated as a part of SBIR’s reauthorization in late 2000, the NRC study has assessed the SBIR program as administered at the five federal agencies that together make up some 96 percent of SBIR program expenditures. The agencies, in order of program size, are the Department of Defense (DoD), the National Institutes of Health (NIH)3, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy (DoE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Based on that legislation, and after extensive consultations with both Congress and agency officials, the NRC focused its study on two overarching questions.4 First, how well do the agency SBIR programs meet four societal objectives of interest to Congress: (1) to stimulate technological innovation; (2) to increase private sector commercialization of innovations (3) to use small business to meet federal research and development needs; and (4) to foster and encourage participation by minority and disadvantaged persons in technological innovation.5 Second, can the management of agency SBIR programs be made more effective? Are there best practices in agency SBIR programs that may be extended to other agencies’ SBIR programs?

To satisfy the congressional request for an external assessment of the program, the NRC analysis of the operations of SBIR program involved multiple sources and methodologies. Extensive NRC commissioned surveys and case studies were carried out by a large team of expert researchers. In addition, agency-compiled program data, program documents, and the existing literature were reviewed. These were complemented by extensive interviews and discussions


See Public Law 106-554, Appendix I—H.R. 5667, Section 108.


The legislation designates the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as the agency responsible for the SBIR program, and some components of DHHS, other than NIH, have SBIR programs. The DHHS program is dominated by NIH awards and the study’s focus remains the NIH, in this case taken to represent the entire department.


Three primary documents condition and define the objectives for this study: These are the Legislation—H.R. 5667, the NRC-Agencies Memorandum of Understanding, and the NRC contracts accepted by the five agencies. These are reflected in the Statement of Task addressed to the Committee by the Academies leadership. Based on these three documents, the NRC Committee developed a comprehensive and agreed set of practical objectives to be reviewed. These are outlined in the Committee’s formal Methodology Report, particularly Chapter 3, “Clarifying Study Objectives.” National Research Council, An Assessment of the Small Business Innovation Research Program—Project Methodology, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004, accessed at <>.


These congressional objectives are found in the Small Business Innovation Development Act (PL 97-219). In reauthorizing the program in 1992, (PL 102-564) Congress expanded the purposes to “emphasize the program’s goal of increasing private sector commercialization developed through federal research and development and to improve the federal government’s dissemination of information concerning small business innovation, particularly with regard to woman-owned business concerns and by socially and economically disadvantaged small business concerns.”

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement