The Future of SBIR/STTR Programs

We all enjoy the opportunity to win new work – no one more so than the innovation community. We are constantly striving to create and adapt technologies and processes to create new solutions to support mission-critical endeavors. Recently, I joined a LinkedIn Live panel with other industry enthusiasts to discuss the current state of the SBIR/STTR program as we awaited the vote by the House of Representatives to determine exactly what would happen next. I was invited to join Matt “Mohawk” Denny 🧨, J.R. Mullis, Dr. Dolores Kuchina-Musina, Chelsea Meggitt, and Kathryn Logan 🐘 to discuss our individual experiences with these programs and the ecosystems we each support. You can watch the replay here: The Value of SBIR & STTR

Some key takeaways from the discussion include:

  1. The SBIR and STTR programs allow for government agencies and commercial companies to refine and adapt their technologies via research and development – typically as a solution for a specific agency challenge. Many companies have found success once they discover how the model can best work to support their initiatives. This has brought into light the current discussion surrounding “SBIR/STTR Mills,” or those companies known to produce mass quantities of revolving SBIR/STTR relevant work. As one of the panelists mentioned, some companies identified as possible SBIR Mills find themselves in that bucket unintentionally. They’ve discovered what works for their R&D process and have made it repeatable. They don’t want to be on the constant churn of Phase I and Phase II work, but they find that it is the best way to support their growing endeavors for innovation and technology development.
  2. The SBIR/STTR programs have come under fire recently and some important changes have emerged as a result. Most notably would be the requirements for small business eligibility. One new requirement demands all companies disclose any potential foreign risks, thereby limiting the security risks from small businesses who are utilizing foreign technology, materials, or who have individuals that may have significant foreign interests. The second involves minimum performance standards for experienced companies. The bill states that businesses who have received 50 or more Phase I awards over the last 5 years must have at least two Phase II awards per four Phase I awards or face a limit on the number of Phase I and Phase II awards they can receive in the next year following the substandard performance review. Additionally, where Phase II and Phase III awards come in, the bill would increase the amount of aggregate sales and investments per Phase II awards for those in the 50+ awards and 100+ awards categories.
  3. Many submission programs, government-wide, need an overhaul regarding the user experience. We had several individuals in the live video comments as well as our panelists who identified areas that could use improvement as part of the process as well as those who provided suggestions for future consideration. Many times, the agencies don’t recognize the plight of the user’s experience until it is identified – but more than pointing out a weakness, providing a potential solution may be the key to change.

Following our live video discussion, the Senate passed the SBIR Reauthorization, huzzah for small businesses! Fun fact – they passed it only two days before the program was set to lapse. Talk about down to the wire. The bill now goes to the President for his signature; once signed, the program is safe from expiration for the next three years. The new expiration date for the program will be September 30, 2025.

What does this mean for SBIR/STTR interested businesses? More reporting, so document everything, and more strict requirements on the outcomes of Phase I and Phase II awards. We at govmates are big fans of alternate procurement opportunities because we like to see businesses, especially the small and nontraditional ecosystem, win more work. So, go forth and SBIR!