SBIR Increase from Research Agencies’ Budgets

New legislation has been introduced in the Senate to expand the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. While this is not in and of itself a bad thing, the correlating increase in the budget could actually hit the research agencies hard. The SBIR program is funded by a tax on federal research agencies (those doing more than $100,000,000 in R&D). Currently the agencies are required to contribute a minimum 2.5 percent of their total budget to the SBIR program. The new legislation, S. 3778 – the Small Business Reauthorization and Improvements Act of 2006, would increase the percentage to a minimum of 3 percent in FY 2007 and increase it by 0.5 percent each fiscal year until it reaches 5 percent in 2011 where it would remain until legislation is passed to increase it again.
The irony in this proposal is that it will actually decrease the amount of money the agencies can spend on their core research missions, which may have impacts on the nation’s innovative capacity beyond any expansion of the SBIR program. At a time when Congress and the Administration seem to have agreed on the importance of increasing support for fundamental research as a way to improve the environment for innovation and help ensure the nation’s continued competitiveness, this proposal actually represents a step backwards.
The science advocacy community is beginning to organize to respond to this new legislation. We will keep you posted here when more details on the effort become available.