Remember when Congress voted to reauthorize the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs and the President signed the bill into law back in December, 2011? Implementing laws however, and doing it right, often takes just a little more time.
The programs are important to small businesses, each year providing more than $2 billion of R&D funding to innovative small business across a broad range of technologies. After a long series of temporary reauthorizations, this reauthorization will last six years, much to the appreciation of all parties involved.
Passage of the reauthorization made it necessary for SBA to modify the governing body of rules for SBIR/STTR before the changes could actually take effect, which involves amending the SBIR and STTR policy directives that provide the specifics and guidance to federal agencies on how to administer the program.
We are pleased to report that on August 6th we will publish in The Federal Register the changes to the SBIR and STTR policy directives to implement the changes made by Congress in the reauthorization. The pre-publication documents can be downloaded here:
The changes to the policy directives are significant. Key changes include:
- Increase in the set asides for the SBIR program, increasing over time from 2.5 percent of extramural R&D to 3.2 percent for SBIR, and from .3 percent to .45 percent for STTR
- Requirements for more streamlining and simplification of the program
- Caps on the amounts of individual awards
- More support for commercialization efforts and enhanced provisions for Phase III transitions
- Greater reporting from agencies to increase accountability in the program
- Stronger measures to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse in the program
- Administrative funding for initiatives at agencies to support all of the above efforts
These changes are effective with the publication of the policy directive, although SBA will continue to consider comments submitted by interested parties. That makes the policy directives slightly different from the more standard rules and regulations associated with new laws or reauthorizations. In most cases the process of rulemaking, governed by the Administrative Procedures Act, leads agencies to publish proposed rules and put them out for public comment. After the public comment period, the executive branch makes changes, and then publishes a final set of rules. The rules take effect after those final rules are published.
In the case of the policy directives, they take effect once they are published. In the case of this reauthorization, the deadlines mandated by Congress did not allow time for public comment before the drafting of the directives began. But public input is still very important, so SBA has decided to run a 60 day public comment period, which will end on October 5, 2012.
The critical advantage of this approach is that key provisions can help small businesses get started faster in their quest for funding under the programs.
To provide fair opportunity and transparency for the comment period, SBA plans to hold two webinars on the following dates:
Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. EDT
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. EDT
If you are interested in attending one of the webinars, please pre-register by sending an e-mail to email@example.com. You must include the date of the webinar for which you wish to participate, the participant's name, title, organization affiliation, address, telephone number, and email address. An email containing the call details will be sent out to those who registered prior to the webinar. Questions on the SBIR and STTR policy directives may be submitted to SBIRComments@sba.gov to be answered during the Q&A portion of the webinar.
The statute itself was over 100 pages long, and as a result, the required changes in the policy directives are long as well. To make it easier for small businesses to digest, we’ve done a few things:
- A synopsis of Key Changes appears here http://www.sba.gov/about-sba-info/174308
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are posted here http://www.sba.gov/about-sba-info/174306 and will be updated as more questions are added from commenters.
- In the preambles to the policy directive notices, we attempted to give the context for the key changes, discuss alternatives considered, and provide further opportunity for feedback and improvement.
It is important to highlight that while the directives are effective at the time of publication, not everything is implemented immediately. The summary of key changes contains an implementation calendar; however the exact timing of efforts may vary by individual agency.
One of SBA’s key roles going forward will be providing oversight on the implementation and reporting back to Congress and the public on the progress made.