Thursday, December 23, 2010

The House fails us again!

Well, folks, SBIR is still on life support. Despite the valiant efforts of the leadership of the Senate Committee on Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship (in Sens. Snowe & Landrieu), and the unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate in passing S.4053 yesterday, the House failed once again miserably to do something good for the country.

Despite apparent willingness by outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, the intervention of the House Shafting Businesses Committee, namely in the personages of outgoing Chair Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and incoming Chair Sam Graves (R-MO), who both opposed "unanimous consent" as a mechanism for voting on the bill, the bill was never considered. It does look distinctly like, despite the musical chairs of the committee leadership, the House SBC will continue to shaft small businesses at will. Will incoming Speaker John Boehner have the courage to do what's right?

Remarkably, an unprecedented alignment of forces supported S.4053. It was endorsed not only by small business organizations, but also by both the National Venture Capital Association and the Biotechnology Industry Organization who have been heretofore the major opponents of any compromise short of redefining small business to the point of meaninglessness.

Yet, there are indications that misguided or insidious elements in the academic community (including the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) are working to defeat any continuation or expansion of R&D involvement by the small business community. I can't say it better than Rick Shindell, so I'll let his words make the case:
Some university organizations are claiming that these greedy SBIR small businesses are trying to steal R&D funds away from them by raising the SBIR allocation from 2.5% to 3.5%. In an emergency letter (Dec 22, 2010) to the House leadership, The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology cried out "This bill would increase the SBIR set-aside by 40 percent…"

What these groups won't tell you is that well over 1/3 (closer to 38%) of all the scientists and engineers in the US work for, or own small high tech businesses but these businesses get only about 4.3% of the government's research dollars, and that's inclusive of the 2.5% SBIR allocation!

In actuality, universities and SBIR small businesses are helping each other more than ever before. Each entity has its strengths and they can leverage each other's assets to improve chances for success.
This is not about greed; this is not a scramble for diminishing crumbs. This is about propelling the US and the world forward, out of this mess of a recession, toward a better and brighter future. This is not a zero-sum game. The more innovation, the better our lives, all of our lives, will be.

What is the best way that we as a society can support innovation? SBIR is right there at the top. And as a boon, it creates jobs and excitement along the way. Seed funding for innovative startups; and for the startup of innovative ideas, transforming those ideas into commercial products, from start to finish. That's what SBIR is all about.

Let's get this taken care of in the new Congress, without prevarication and without delays. Is there leadership enough to get this renewed for 8 years before the current Continuing Resolution expires on January 31? Let us hope!

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