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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary - The Importance of Technology in an Economic Recovery

April 22, 2009

Dr. Kesh Narayanan, Division Director of the Industrial Innovations and Partnerships in the Directorate of Engineering at the National Science Foundation (NSF) testified at a hearing about "The Importance of Technology in an Economic Recovery" held by the House Committee on Small Business on April 22, 2009.

Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) opened the hearing by reminding everyone that Americans "take great pride in our ability to innovate," that the country has "an impressive track record of innovation," and that entrepreneurs play in helping "rebuild the economy."

Dr. Narayanan opened his testimony with a review of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at NSF that began in 1977 as a pilot program that solicited research proposals from small firms. The pilot program became the NSF SBIR program after Congress established the SBIR program in 1982. The objective of the NSF SBIR program is to create both incentives and opportunities for small firms to pursue high-risk, high-quality, scientific research that has economic potential.

Currently, the NSF SBIR program is soliciting new proposals in the following areas: Biotechnology and Chemical Technologies, Education Applications, Information and Communication Technologies, and Nanotechnology, Advanced Materials and Manufacturing. As part of the NSF SBIR program, awardees are encouraged to stimulate job creation by participating in NSF-wide funding opportunities. Moreover, through leveraging government funding, NSF encourages SBIR awardees to form partnership with partners and investors.

During his testimony, Dr. Narayanan detailed several successful NSF SBIR projects including Touch Graphics, a small firm in New York City that develops assistive technologies for the visually impaired. By teaming up with another NSF SBIR awardee, Exceptional Teaching, Inc., Touch Graphics marketed a self-teaching Braille literacy training system. Additionally, Touch Graphics has developed universally accessible displays and exhibits.

In his conclusion, Dr. Narayanan stated that the "NSF SBIR program is uniquely positioned to foster private sector technological innovation and create jobs in small business firms."

Other witnesses at the hearing were Mr. Edsel Brown, Jr., Assistant Administrator, Office of Technology, U.S. Small Business Administration; M. Michael Caccuitto, Assistant Director, Office of Small Business Programs, SBIR & STTR Program Administrator, Department of Defense; Ms. Jo Anne Goodnight, SBIR & STTR Program Coordinator, Office of Extramural Research, National Institutes of Health; Mr. Larry James, Acting SBIR/STTR Program Manager, Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy.