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  • Washington Highlights

    House Science Subcommittee Holds Hearing on SBIR-STTR Innovation Programs

    Anurupa Dev, Director, Science Policy & Strategy
    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy

    The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology June 16 held a hearing on reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs and their role in technology transfer.

    In her opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) noted that “converting scientific breakthroughs into innovations creates new industries, new businesses, and new jobs.” She highlighted the importance of the SBIR and STTR grant programs in catalyzing and accelerating this process, through over $40 billion in contracts and grants to small businesses.

    Full Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas) also commented on the success of the programs, but additionally stated, “It is also important to examine if the current funding levels – the taxes on basic research – are hurting fundamental scientific research.”

    Witness testimony was heard from: National Science Foundation Assistant Director for Directorate of Engineering Pramod Khargonekar, PhD; National Institutes of Health Deputy Director for Science Programs Michael Lauer, M.D.; Department of Energy Deputy Director for Science Programs, Office of Science Patricia Dehmer, Ph.D.; and Georgia Tech Research Corporation Vice President for Research and General Manager Jilda D. Garton.

    Dr. Lauer pointed out the growth in NIH’s SBIR and STTR programs since the fiscal year (FY) 2011 reauthorization, with an increase of approximately 30 percent for these programs compared to a 4.5 percent increase in the overall NIH budget. He stated, “Future growth in SBIR/STTR programs should be realized through overall extramural R&D budget increases for each SBIR/STTR funding agency...Dedicating a larger proportion of NIH’s extramural research dollars to these two specific programs would threaten the diversity of the research portfolio when the portfolio’s diversity is one of the major keys to its success.”

    The House Committee on Small Business previously approved a bill that would further expand the set-aside for the SBIR program from 3.2 percent in FY 2017 to 4.5 percent in FY 2022 [see Washington Highlights, April 1]. All the witnesses spoke against such an increase, and recommended maintaining the set-aside at current levels as well as permanently reauthorizing the SBIR and STTR programs.