Thursday, November 13, 2008

SBIR National Conference Focuses on Technology Transition and Reauthorization

The SBIR Coach attended the National SBIR Conference in Hartford, CT, this week. The theme of the conference was "The Future is Innovation...The Future is Now!" Deb Santy, the SBIR Director of the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, and her committee put on a great show for we ~850 attendees. In addition to the standard presentations from sponsoring companies and Federal agencies who offer SBIR projects, we were treated to a special presentation, loaded with fascinating historical SBIR data, by one of the icons of the SBIR world, Ann Eskesen, President of The Innovation Development Institute. Ann was one of the creators of the SBIR Program back in the early 1980s. Her presentations are fast paced and intensive, and always leave me dizzy! Thank goodness she provided a copy for we attendees to study at our own speed!

We also had a presentation by Dr. Henry Lee, the renowned Forensic Scientist, who entertained us with his accounts of how powers of observation and thinking "outside the box" solved crimes and is actually the basis for Innovation. Very inspiring. Dr. Lee is an incredibly talented scientist and a fantastic speaker. He spoke to us right after lunch and no one dozed off! If you ever have the opportunity to hear him speak, jump on it!

The Department of Defense (specifically the Navy and the Air Force), The National Institutes of Health, NASA, and The Department of Energy all did extensive presentations on what they are doing to help guide the transition of SBIR-funded technology to commercialization. Highlighting their stories were representatives of most of the nation's prime contractors, companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, United Technologies, Sikorsky, Pratt & Whitney, Bell Helicopter, Battelle,

One of the highlights for everyone was a two-hour networking session patterned on the "speed dating" concept, where you exchanged business cards and information with someone across the table for 5 minutes, and then shifted to a new partner. I talked to two dozen very interesting people in that short time and expect that several of them will become clients. Everyone who participated was hoarse and worn out at the end of the session, but all were energized with the opportunities that arose in the discussions! A great concept, Deb! Thanks!

We also heard from Jere Glover, Executive Director of the Small Business Technology Council (SBTC), on the current status of the SBIR reauthorization battle in the Congress. Ann Eskesen and Rick Shindell, owner of The SBIR Gateway, also provided comments and perspective. In a small gathering after the conference day officially ended on Thursday, Jere, Ann and Rick also presided over a strategic planning session on how to mobilize support for guiding our legislators to do the right thing. The most important thing that we can do is inform our Congressional Representatives and Senators on how important the innovation enabled by SBIR is to the economic health of the nation. Jere promised to post some guidance for this communication on the SBTC website (, and Ann has extensive support data and information on her website ( Watch this Blog for updates and further guidance.

It is somewhat distressing that there is nothing yet scheduled for a 2009 SBIR Conference. One of the States has to step up and host this important event, and they need to start the planning for it now! Any volunteers?

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