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.