There’s good news on the horizon for entrepreneurs: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is not coming to a halt anytime soon. That is because the U.S. Senate recently unanimously passed a three-year authorization of the SBIR and the Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) program.
The bill, which passed the House as well and is known as the SBIR and STTR Extension Act of 2022, was spearheaded by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), chairman of Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Republican Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). It requires small business programs to conduct background checks on companies seeking support that have ties to foreign nations deemed a national security risk.
The point of the legislation was to further prevent Chinese, Russian, North Korean, etc., shell companies from accessing national security-related technologies. It arose in response to a Department of Defense review that found China was pilfering technology developed in the U.S. by exploiting the two programs.
The bill was introduced after several months of delay due to the concerns of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) about companies taking unintended advantage of the program.
“SBIR and STTR represent the best of government-industry partnerships — harnessing the creativity and ingenuity of American entrepreneurs to solve our nation’s most pressing public health and national security challenges,” said Cardin. “This bill will keep SBIR and STTR going for an additional three years, increase commercialization of technology developed through the programs and protect our nation’s intellectual property.
“Passing this important bill gives our nation’s innovative small businesses and research institutions the certainty they need to continue developing the technology that will power the economy of tomorrow,” he said.
The bill also includes updates in response to Paul’s complaints.
“We were able to reach a bipartisan deal that puts needed controls in place to secure America’s investment in research from China’s espionage and malign influence,” said. Paul. “The deal also starts to mitigate abuse by so-called SBIR mills, holding them accountable for the egregious amount of taxpayer dollars they have received.”
For example, each agency involved in the program must, within 270 days of enactment, establish a due diligence program to assess the risk posed by any foreign connections. The Small Business Administration will work in partnership with the Office of Science and Technology Policy and consult with the Committee on Foreign Investment to facilitate best practice sharing between the eleven defense and civilian agency programs that support these activities.
In addition, the bill would require small firms to disclose any business or financial relationships with foreigners before receiving an award.
Hitting the polls
With the mid-term elections looming, what the headline proclaimed in a recent Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses survey was not a surprise: “Small Business Owners Motivated to Vote” ― with 86 percent of participants saying they plan to stand up and be counted.
What was revealed in the first paragraph was not a shocker, either ― that 81 percent of small business owners say they will most likely support a candidate who pledges to prioritize the reauthorization and funding of the SBA.
The factors that offered the motivation for these responses were plentiful, most notably the inflationary pressures, supply chain issues and workforce shortages. In one survey graphic, 48 percent of the small business owners said they felt that the economy is worse today than it was three months ago.
Ninety percent said those issues have negatively impacted their small businesses, and 68 percent had increased the prices of their goods and/or services to offset the negative impact of broader economic trends. In addition, 62 percent said they anticipate a recession.
The numbers were the result of 1,479 participants of the Goldman Sachs survey that was conducted in late summer by Babson College and David Binder Research. It’s available at www.goldmansachs.com/citizenship/10000-small-businesses/US/infographics/september2022/index.html.
Gloria Larkin is President and CEO of TargetGov, and a national expert in business development in the government markets. Email glorialarkinTG@targetgov.com, visit www.targetgov.com or call toll-free 1-866-579-1346 x 325 for more information.