Friday, April 3, 2009

NIH Doesn't Budge on Excluding SBIR from Stimulus Money

They really have no shame. The NIH, I mean.

Senators Landrieu and Snowe finally got a response to the letter they sent them. Want to read it? It's a masterpiece of bureaucratic doublespeak. Click HERE to retrieve it. It took them over three weeks to write this?

The key words are: "In addition to" in the sentence: "In addition to applying for funding through the SBIR/STTR program, small businesses are also eligible to apply for NIH funding through grant opportunities supported by ARRA...".

Never mind these ARRA opportunities are open to big businesses, universities, and every other organization under the sun.

And those "Challenge Grants"! Oy! Mark my words... they'll see 20,000+ applications for those 200 grants. Maybe a token 2.5% will go to small business - 5 awards! And I predict will implode on April 27th under the submission onslaught. It took one of my clients nearly 24 hours to upload their NIH proposal this week! If they're having this sort of problem now...

They even promise small business will have "appropriate representation ... on [challenge grant] scientific review groups". Hmmm, appropriate, eh? Let's see.... 2.5% of a 20-member committee is half a person. Wonder if they'll round up or down?

If you didn't know better, you'd think they really cared about small business. I'll say it again: they really have no shame.

The sad fact is the NIH is technically correct in taking this position on not increasing "its FY2009 appropriated" funding base. Their FY2009 SBIR/STTR Allocation Base is determined as percentages of their total FY2008 extramural R&D expenditures, and the ARRA funding doesn't affect that.

Basically, it's letter vs. spirit of the law. Stimulus is needed now and we're ready to do the work.

None of the other agencies saw fit to deliberately cut small business out of their extra money.

Who's going to tell the NIH to behave responsibly? The exclusion they snuck in has been signed into law, behind the backs of the Small Business Committees and without informing the President what he was signing.

Congress could repeal the exclusion, but do they have the fortitude to pass a bill that does that? Probably not.

Does President Obama have the authority to issue an Executive Order eliminating the exclusion? Probably not, but then I didn't think he had the authority to fire the head of a major corporation either.

We'll see what the NIH does in FY2010, when their TOTAL extramural R&D expenditures will include ARRA funding, and, as the Senate letter pointed out, the ARRA exclusion doesn't change the total!

Well, Senators Landrieu and Snowe - whatcha gonna do with this? Take them to task, or let them get away with sneaking around you? And Senators Feingold and Cardin - did you get a similar response to your letter?

We're counting on you, the congressional Committees who officially represent Small Business, to right this wrong. Please don't let us down.


UPDATE: Sunday, April 5, 2009. I faxed a copy of this column to all members of the House and Senate Small Business Committees today. Any of you who feel so inclined should also raise some dust over this. Data files of contact information in three formats are on The more voices raised, the more likely they are to do something. And, at the very least, their awareness of SBIR and its importance to the high-tech small business community will be enhanced.


Anonymous said...

I counted the omnibus challenge topics and there are ~1000! If each topic has 50 applications, it would 50,000 applications competing for 200 awards, only 1 in 250 will get the lottery. Man, I don't know if any small business would get one.

- Fred Patterson - said...

With all the publicity and scrutiny, they can't afford to toally ignore us now. So, I think they'll give a few small businesses small Challenge Grant awards, just so they can say, "See - we do support small businesses!"

I have info from a reliable source that one major university in the northwest is planning to submit ~300 Challenge Grant proposals. Do the math. Las Vegas gives much better odds, and I hear they could really use the business!

Anonymous said...

There was a rumor that one program officer said he got 100 submission inquiry in one day. No surprise as everybody I know is preparing 1-2 CGs.