Science funding agencies will have to increase funding for small businesses grants

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the House of Representatives agreed to provisions provided earlier this month by the Senate to end five years of debate and pass a long-term extension of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.  For almost five years, Congress has been trying to pass a reauthorization bill for the SBIR/STTR programs, which have been operating under a series of temporary extensions since 2008. The most recent extension expires on Dec. 16.

Currently the SBIR program requires all federal agencies with a budget over $100 million to reserve 2.5 percent of their total extramural research budgets for grants to small businesses, as defined by Congress. The STTR program uses a similar approach as SBIR (but mandates collaboration between small businesses and research institutions), however the set-aside is 0.3 percent of the agency’s extramural research budget. The new SBIR/STTR reauthorization bill increases the SBIR set-aside from 2.5 to 3.2 percent and the STTR set-aside from 0.3 to 0.45 percent over the next six years.

Many in the traditional research community have generally opposed increasing the SBIR/STTR set-aside amounts since it would shave away pieces of the already decimated extramural research portfolios at science-funding agencies, like the National Institutes of Health.  For example, these increases would ostensibly cut the NIH extramural budget from today’s level by $222 million. In other words, the NIH would be able to fund almost 500 fewer RPGs.

ASBMB has long supported reauthorizing the SBIR/STTR programs, but opposes increasing the set-aside amount. Last week, ASBMB co-signed a letter from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology urging Congress to remove the SBIR/STTR reauthorization amendment from the final version of the Defense authorization bill.

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