Thursday, October 22, 2009
(Thanks to Fred Patterson, the SBIR Coach, for spotting this):
Included in the bill is language to remove the "Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) contracting exemption that was included in the Recovery Act." If you haven't been following along, someone (mysteriously, multiple hearings have been unable to unmask the culprit, as noone is taking credit) inserted language into H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, that effectively exempted $229 million of stimulus funds from being spent on small high-tech businesses for R&D under the SBIR/STTR funding mechansims (known as R41/R42 and R43/R44).
This action was arguably illegal, certainly unethical, as the language was inserted while the bill was under the authority of a conference committee, after having been passed by both Houses of Congress without it. As per the rules of Congress, the purview of a conference committee is to reconcile differences between House & Senate versions of a bill, not to introduce any substantive changes that were not a part of either bill.
If Landrieu's new bill passes, those $229 million* will be restored as per statutory requirements under the Small Business Act and numerous SBIR/STTR reauthorizations to set aside a small percentage (currently 2.8% total for both programs) of certain federal agencies' extramural R&D budget to provide seed (Phase I) and transition-to-commercialization (Phase II) funding for small business-led efforts. American recovery & reinvestment: it's even in the title of the act.
Access to capital means much more than providing loans to small businesses. And it means more than letting Venture Capital interest and investment serve as a proxy for a business' worth. There is a reason that SBIR/STTR have been so successful in stimulating the creation of new technologies, and getting those technologies to the end users where they will have the greatest effect, more effective than Venture Capital.
I've said it before, but it warrants repeating: it's all about seed funding, and continued support to get those sprouts to market!
* UPDATE * Actually the language of Landrieu's bill, S. 1832, would only restore $150m of the stimulus funds to SBIR/STTR. Apparently, according to Fred Patterson, this may have been a compromise NIH was willing to agree to. Considering Jo Anne Goodnight's current detail, away from her desk as NIH Coordinator for SBIR/STTR, to the Senate's Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, it's not too far fetched that there is close (albeit tight-lipped) coordination between the activities of the SBE and NIH administrative personnel.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009 the House & Senate Armed Service Committees reached agreement on the conference report to H.R. 2647, the Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In this conference report ... there are 2 pages of language that in essence, reauthorize the DoD's SBIR and STTR programs for 1 year (ending September 30, 2010), and extending the Commercialization Pilot Program (CPP) for the same period.
This has no effect on the other ten agency SBIR/STTR programs that will expire on October 31, 2009 unless extended by another CR or reauthorized.
The NDAA should come to the floor of both bodies quickly for a vote, perhaps Thursday. There are some provisions that are controversial and a few that the President didn't want, so the bill's passage and the President's signing, although likely, will not be a slam dunk. We have a copy of the SBIR portion of the report at http://www.zyn.com/sbir/insider/SBIR-Armed_Services_Report-100709.pdf
... Obviously the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) actions reflect a vote of "no confidence" in the ability or likelihood of the other committees to reach SBIR reauthorization in a timely manner.
INSIDE STUFF: Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), chair of the SASC, who is also a member of the SBE, worked closely with SBE committee chair Mary Landrieu (D-LA) as did their staffers, to incorporate the entirety of the Senate's SBIR reauthorization bill (S.1233) into the NDAA. Some SBIR changes were made by the SASC including making the reauthorization for 14 years, making the CPP permanent (rather than its pilot program status), and expanding the CPP to the STTR program.
... Once it came to light that this action was for real and was gaining traction, HSBC chair Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and HS&T subcommittee chair David Wu (D-OR) fired off a strong letter of complaint to HASC chair Ike Skelton (D-MO) and ranking member Buck McKeon (R-CA), along with a CC to Nancy Pelosi. (see http://www.zyn.com/sbir/insider/HASC_letter-9-25-09.pdf )
In the House, there was great pressure on Armed Services to stand down on the SBIR issue. Chairman Skelton would not cave but he would compromise. The 14 years were reduced to 1, CPP was also only 1 year and was not expanded to STTR.
This compromise should serve notice the other House committees that SBIR must be reauthorized properly or the DoD may run with their own program next year.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Earlier this month, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins held a town hall meeting with constituency groups to outline a vision for the NIH, including putting science to work for the benefit of healthcare reform and advocating for a stronger US global health presence. In addition to responding to input during the meeting, Dr. Collins invited members of constituency groups to follow up with additional comments about issues facing their organization or community that should be brought to the attention of Dr. Collins and the NIH. The Institute is accepting comments on a rolling basis, and Genetic Alliance is collecting individual responses to inform our comments until Friday, October 9.
To submit your comments, please send them to the NIH at NIH-LISTENS@nih.gov and copy NCIAdvocacy@mail.nih.gov. To submit them to Genetic Alliance, please send them to Kristi Zonno, Director of Genetics and Health Policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.