Wednesday, March 31, 2010

SBA Raises SBIR Award Caps

NOTE: STTR was not changed by this move -- only SBIR (for now).
The SBA announced the intent back in 2008. They sought comments. They sat on it for almost two years and did nothing. Until now.

The SBA decided not to wait for Reauthorization and kicked the cap for Phase I awards up to $150K and Phase IIs up to $1M. It's been published in the Federal Register ( so it's official.

Rick Shindell has some background in the March 30th Issue of his SBIR Insider. Check it out on the SBIR Gateway's Insider page.

This doesn't mean that an agency must raise their award levels, nor does it mean that they can't exceed these caps. The agencies can (and do) do what they please. What changes is the level at which they have to explain themselves.

It remains to be seen which agencies will immediately change their funding policies. Note that the NSF actually made this change (at least for Phase Is) last fall.

Making SBIR awards that exceed the authorized caps means the agency must include a justification in each case in their Annual Report to Congress. Making awards below the caps requires no justification.

Some agencies (notably NIH) frequently make awards in excess of the caps. Now they'll have less work to do writing justifications! That should make our hard working public servants happy!

I expect we'll find out what the agencies will do at the SBIR National in Hartford (April 21-23). It'll be a hot topic of conversation. Another reason for you to join me in attending. Check out the agenda for this important Conference and register HERE.

So what about Reauthorization? Does this affect the likelihood of it getting done by April 30th?

Yes it does, and my feeling is: NO, it won't get done. It actually takes the pressure off Congress to act quickly.

Given this development, I now predict another Continuing Resolution, probably to September 30th. Unless Nydia gets her usual way and makes it shorter. Or just lets it die. After all, remember, she thinks SBIR awardees are just "marginal small businesses" on "corporate welfare", and don't matter much.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ObamaCare "Cures" SBIR Controversy - CAN it be true?

Yes, you're reading that right. The "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" aka the Heath Care Reform Bill signed by President Obama today includes a provision that may affect SBIR. Maybe even CURES the controversy surrounding SBIR eligibility!

The provision is called the "Cures Acceleration Network" or CAN. It's Section 10409 of HR.3590. Look it up. (An SBIR awardee who's been one of the program's strongest advocates found this and alerted me to it's existence.)

CAN is an NIH funded initiative to provide a new grant mechanism open to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies of all size to receive NIH grants of up to $15 million. A pot of $500 million has been allocated for the remainder of FY2010. It will be administered by a CAN Review Board of which at least 4 of the 24 members must be VCs.

If the bill avoids the upcoming procedural minefields and this provision survives, it completely obviates the need to include VC controlled companies in SBIR. For years many of us argued that VC controlled companies should be eligible to receive NIH grants - just not from the 2.8% SBIR/STTR allocation. BIO always replied that companies could never get funding outside of SBIR. The CAN program would completely turn their argument on its ear!

Now that Health Care won't necessarily hog the front-burner we might get some attention to other things -- like SBIR! And, maybe with CAN we have a way to keep SBIR from being hijacked by VCs and Big BIO.

Dare we hope this indeed "CURES" our impasse and allows SBIR to be reauthorized without drastically altering the program? Stay tuned.

Friday, March 5, 2010

SBIR dodges a bullet -- for now. But they'll reload, so let's get busy!

The House passed the so called Jobs Bill (HR.2847) on Thursday with only minor changes from the Senate version. SBIR Reauthorization does NOT appear to have been one of those changes. We haven't seen the actual wording of this bill yet, however, and we do know how sneaky they can be. But apparently Speaker Pelosi wasn't willing to back the Altmire/Velazquez maneuver to fold the House version of SBIR Reauthorization (HR.2965) into this bill.

The Jobs Bill now goes back to the Senate for approval of those minor changes before getting signed. It's doubtful that the Senate will do anything to delay enactment, so we can breathe a sigh of relief.

But make that a brief breath please. We have only a few weeks to get the attention of our legislators to actually get a compromise together that will include the Senate's bill (S.1233) and improve SBIR, not harm it. And there's much work to do

I spoke to Deb Santy earlier this week. She runs the Connecticut SBIR office as an arm of Connecticut Innovations. Deb's group has stepped up to again host the National SBIR Conference. It will be April 21-23 in Hartford. We figure this will be right around the time that SBIR Reauthorization goes on the front burner on Congress before it's expiry date of April 30th. Here's Deb's message to y'all:

"The SBIR Program is under attack. All of us are trying to figure out how to get our government to properly reauthorize the SBIR program. A demonstration of your commitment and support is to show up -- attend the 2010 SBIR National. If you have won awards over the years and want to continue winning them -- you need to show your support and get your "you know whats" over to the SBIR National in Hartford. Make this the best attended SBIR National ever -- because it really needs to be the best. If you want this program to continue, if you want the billions of grant dollars to continue, you need to come and make headlines. Hey, you might even make some great contacts and help commercialize your technologies -- because there is a great lineup of networking and "Partner for Profit" activities. I'll be there .. and so should you. No excuses. Just Register"

I'll be there too, Deb. We know our collective voices can make a difference. We just showed that to be true.

The SBTC is leading this fight, and Jere Glover will be hosting a special meeting of the SBTC in Hartford. We had 100+ at the last such meeting in Reno. Let's double or even triple that for Hartford. Better schedule a big room, Deb!

Make no mistake about it. Those who would hijack SBIR for their own bigger business Wall Street focused agendas will reload and take aim at Main Street's small business interests. We've raised the awareness of SBIR among our legislators to unprecedented levels, but we have to even do more.

Pay attention to the strategies that will be suggested on Pick up your pens (or Blackberries/iPhones/etc.) and keep the information flowing. We may be small business, but we have big voices.

Come to Hartford. We'll get some national attention on our National Conference. Together, we will make a difference.

And, a personal thanks to all of you who wrote me with expressions of support and copies of the letters you wrote to counter the Altmire/Velazquez maneuver. It's exhilarating to know that someone is actually reading what I write! Yee-Haw!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

SBIR Reauthorization compromise suggested -- but is it a ploy?

It works! Raising our voices slowed the attempt to smuggle the House version of SBIR Reauthorization into the Jobs Bill.

But they haven't given up. The train's going down a new track. And the new direction is so ironic: compromise with the Senate's version!

Representative Jason Altmire (D-PA) has sent out a new Dear Colleague letter. Here's the new part:

"As Congress crafts legislative packages to stimulate the economy and create jobs, American small businesses should be first and foremost on our minds. SBIR Reauthorizations passed the House and the Senate in 2009, but have yet to be reconciled and signed into law (H.R. 2965 and S.1233.) A compromise of these two bills to reauthorize SBIR would be an ideal job-creating addition to a jobs package."

Compromise? Really? The House has steadfastly refused to even discuss compromise for quite some time. Why should we believe that's what's intended now? All of a sudden. And the term "reconciled" got my attention too. Uh Oh.

Hmmm.... I seem to remember the Senate offered an SBIR reauthorization compromise almost six months ago. No one has seen it, and the House refused to even consider it. Why are they hiding it? Let's see it! It may actually be worth considering.

Compromise means that both sides have to give and get something. What's the House going to give? What's the Senate going to get?

And what's the darn hurry? We have until April 30th to get an SBIR Reauthorization compromise negotiated. WHY STUFF IT INTO THIS HURRY-UP BILL?

Think about it -- even if SBIR is reauthorized via this Jobs Bill will any new SBIR projects be funded (or jobs created) immediately? Of course not! That's not the way SBIR works. And, the new rules wouldn't even apply until FY2011.

Rick Shindell revealed the existence of the new Altmire letter today in his latest SBIR Insider letter. As Rick points out, this "compromise" suggestion is very likely just a ploy to get us to lay down our pens while they do sneak the House version on the Jobs Bill train.

I agree. It's a ploy. We'd be foolish to trust them.

So please keep the pressure on. Send another letter to your Congressman. Thanks to the NSBA there's an easy way to do it:
But make some edits in the template:

1. Let's use Altmire's language to our advantage. Insist that the suggested compromise discussion actually be held. There's even an existing Senate compromise that's waiting for examination. Let's do that.

2. Be sure to point out the ridiculous assumption that this initiative would create small business jobs immediately. Yes, it will spur small business job growth -- next year. We've got two months to do SBIR reauthorization right. No need to rush it through this week!

See for guidance on how to contact your legislators and updates.