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An Assessment of the SBIR Program at the National Institutes of Health
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.2 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 conducted empirical analyses of the operations of SBIR based on commissioned surveys and case studies. Agency-compiled program data, program documents, and the existing literature were reviewed. In addition, extensive interviews and discussions were conducted with program managers, program participants, agency ‘users’ of the program, as well as program stakeholders.
The study as a whole sought to answer questions of program operation and effectiveness, including the quality of the research projects being conducted under the SBIR program, the commercialization of the research, and the program’s contribution to accomplishing agency missions. To the extent possible, the evaluation included estimates of the benefits (both economic and noneconomic) achieved by the SBIR program, as well as broader policy issues associated with public-private collaborations for technology development and government support for high technology innovation.
Taken together, this study is the most comprehensive assessment of SBIR to date. Its empirical, multifaceted approach to evaluation sheds new light on the operation of the SBIR program in the challenging area of early stage finance. As with any assessment, particularly one across five quite different agencies and departments, there are methodological challenges. These are identified and discussed at several points in the text. This important caveat notwithstanding, the scope and diversity of the report’s research should contribute significantly to the understanding of the SBIR program’s multiple objectives, measurement issues, operational challenges, and achievements. This volume presents the Committee’s assessment of the SBIR program at the National Institutes of Health.
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.”