By Calvin W. Goings
Could yours be the perfect invention to aid U.S. combat soldiers in Afganistan? Have you created a vaccine that could possibly rid the world of one of its deadly diseases? Do you think that you could possibly be the next Bill Gates? Perhaps your ideas or inventions are not as grand as these, and you need a little assistance with funding your idea and making your dream a reality. The federal government may be able to help you.
For small businesses seeking to advance their technological inventions in the commercial marketplace, the U.S. Small Business Administration coordinates the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program which targets the emerging entrepreneurial sector because that is where innovation and innovators thrive.
The risk and expense of conducting serious Research & Development efforts, however, are often beyond the means of many small businesses. By reserving a specific portion of all federal Research & Development funds for small businesses, SBIR supports the small businesses and enables them to compete on a level playing field with larger businesses. SBIR funds the critical startup and development stages and it encourages the commercialization of the technology, product, or service, which, in turn, stimulates the U.S. economy.
Each year, eleven federal departments and agencies are required by SBIR to reserve a portion of their Research & Development funds for award to small businesses, including the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services and Transportation, Homeland Security, the Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and National Science Foundation. These agencies issue requests for proposals for specific Research & Development projects they want accomplished, and accept unsolicited proposals for other projects.
Following submission of proposals, agencies make SBIR awards based on the small business’ qualification, degree of innovation, technical merit, and future market potential. Small businesses that receive awards or grants then begin a three-phase program.
The U.S. Small Business Administration plays an important role as the coordinating agency for the SBIR program. It directs the eleven agencies’ implementation of SBIR, reviews their progress, and reports annually to Congress on its operation. The SBA collects solicitation information from participating agencies and publishes it quarterly in a Pre-Solicitation Announcement.
The SBIR program is a highly competitive award program that encourages small businesses to explore their technological potential and helps them profit from their inventions.
The program has helped thousands of small businesses to compete for federal research and development awards. Their contributions have enhanced the nation’s defense, protected our environment, advanced health care, and improved our ability to manage information and manipulate data.
To learn more about the SBIR and how your small business might be able to participate, visit SBA’s Web site at www.sba.gov/sbir.