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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary - Engineering Division Director Testifies on Small Business Programs

June 26, 2007

On Tuesday, June 26, 2007, the Engineering Directorate's Division Director for Industrial Innovation and Partnerships, Kesh Narayanan, testified at a hearing to review Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program trends. Narayanan, along with four other witnesses, appeared before the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation. The witnesses reported on the latest SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program developments.

"Much has changed since the SBIR legislation came to law 25 years ago," Subcommittee Chairman David Wu (D-OR) said. "The size of that program has grown to $1.9 billion in FY2005."

The SBIR program was invented at NSF. As early as 1976, Roland Tibbetts of NSF initiated a new program for the support of the small business community with early-stage financial support for high-risk technologies with commercial promise. In 1982, based in part on the success of this program, Congress expanded the SBIR program to other agencies by passing the Small Research Innovation Development Act.

SBIR was established to develop opportunities for small technological firms to commercialize new innovative products, and to facilitate the firms' participation in Federal research and development (R&D). STTR joins small businesses with research institutions in order to support cooperative R&D. The mission of these programs is to commercialize new products and to keep America on the forefront of technological competitiveness.

Narayanan stated in his testimony that "the focus of the NSF SBIR program from its inception has been on the commercialization of research." In fact, NSF funded close to $1 million in SBIR awards in FY2006 alone.

In order to ensure research commercialization, NSF holds workshops and conferences to "publicize the NSF programs, [and to] build personal relationships with members of the investment community," said Narayanan. NSF also created 'SBIR MatchMaker' that allows grantees to meet with investors interested in certain areas of technological research. Furthermore, the agency has developed a telephone interview process to ensure NSF-funded research is reaching its commercialization potential.

Other witnesses included Michael Caccuitto, Office of Small Business Programs, Department of Defense; Jo Anne Goodnight, Office of Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services; Larry James, Small Business Research Division, Department of Energy; and Douglas Comstock, Director of the Innovative Partnerships Program Office, NASA. All the witnesses underlined the importance of more funding flexibility to meet the needs of their specific agencies.

-- Sarah Miller

See also:

  • Testimony by Dr. Kesh Narayanan, Division Director for Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP), NSF Directorate for Engineering