This issue contains some important news, Q&As and errata. My goal is to keep this one short.
Today, March 30, 2010 the SBA has published a Notice of Final Amendments to their Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Policy Directive. The Policy Directive provides the rules and guidance of the SBIR program to the agencies and participants. These new amendments are effective immediately and deal only with the SBIR award amounts thresholds.
The SBA has raised the SBIR award threshold amounts from $100,000 to $150,000 for phase I, and $750,000 to $1,000,000 for phase II. This does not affect an agency's right to make awards of greater or lessor amounts. (Agencies are supposed to provide justification to SBA for awards in excess of the policy directive guidelines.)
The STTR program has a separate Policy Directive and is not affected by this change. A similar change is in the works for the STTR Policy Directive but it is unknown when this change will be applied to STTR.
For those of you wondering what role the SBA's SBIR Policy Directive plays in governing/guiding the 11 agencies participating in SBIR/STTR, here's a snippet of the official language from the law, 15 USC 638:
Section 9(j)(3) of the Small Business Act (Act) (15
U.S.C. 638(j)(3)) requires the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business
Administration (SBA) to modify the SBIR Program Policy Directive as
required for the general conduct of the SBIR Program within the Federal
The actual language of the Policy Directive changes now reads:
Section 7 - SBIR Funding Process
(h) Dollar Value of Awards.
(1) Generally, a Phase I award may not exceed $150,000 and a Phase II award may not exceed $1,000,000. SBA may adjust these amounts once every 5 years to reflect economic adjustments and programmatic considerations. There is no dollar level associated with Phase III SBIR awards.
(2) An awarding agency may exceed those award values where appropriate for a particular project. After award of any funding agreement exceeding $150,000 for Phase I or $1,000,000 for Phase II, the agency's SBIR representative must provide SBA with written justification of such action. This justification must be submitted with the agency's Annual Report data. Similar justification is required for any modification to a funding agreement that would bring the cumulative dollar amount to a total in excess of the amounts set forth above.
This should have little to no effect on the smaller agency programs such as USDA, EPA, NOAA and NIST, not sure about ED, but it could change some things for DoD, NIH, DOE, NASA, DHS, and NSF. It should be noted that NIH frequently makes larger awards, while parts of DoD occasionally makes larger awards.
Years ago our SBIR Gateway built an easy to use SBIR Policy Directive site and it is kept current. You'll find at www.zyn.com/sbir (click on the SBIR Policy Directive link in the lower left, under Resources) or go directly to www.zyn.com/sbir/sbres/sba-pd/ The policy directive explains may dimensions of the program from legislative provisions to program selection process, eligibility to terms of agreement under SBIR awards. Many of your questions can be answered from this document.
As to the process and ramifications of this change:
The Good: SBA finally got this done, and it should demonstrate to Congress that some of the issues being argued in the reauthorization process can, and should be handled by SBA via the Policy Directive. This also applies to size standards and the VC issue (more on this point in the next SBIR Insider).
The Bad: SBA's SBIR guidance and leadership over the past several years is tantamount to an absentee landlord. More support and "juice" needs to be provided to the SBA's Office of Technology which has been decimated over the years. In fairness, we hear that good things are happening in that regard and we hope to see some positive results soon.
The Ugly: SBA proposed raising the award levels back in August of 2008 and asked for your comments. SBA's announcement today states they received only 2 comments on those proposed changes. That's an outrage because the SBIR Insider received a couple of hundred in response to our August 20, 2008 SBIR Insider (see www.zyn.com/sbir/insider/sb-insider08-20-08.htm ) and we heard many complaints from people not being able to offer comments to SBA via the suggested Federal Rulemaking Portal www.regulations.gov . I reported this to the SBA at that time and I can't verify it was fixed, but I can tell you that it was still broken more than 3/4 through the 30 day time allotment for comments.
Congress often looks at comment statistics when evaluating changes to, or elimination of a program. Our small business community falsely looked inept and disinterested on this issue. It should be noted that this SBA failure was at the peak of many years of budget cuts, and there was NO support for the SBA Office of Technology (the office that administers the SBIR/STTR program).
The NIH is asking for your feedback on the impact of eliminating the correction window from the electronic grant application submission process on their applicant organizations and the timing of such a change.
During the early days of NIH's morphing from paper to electronic submission (circa 2005), the agency built into the process a temporary error correction window to ensure a smooth and successful transition for applicants. This window provides applicants a period of time beyond the grant application due date to correct any error or warning notices of noncompliance with application instructions that are identified by NIH's eRA systems. (The standard NIH error correction window is 2 days, but it has been temporarily extended to 5 days to facilitate the transition for applicants to newly restructured, shorter applications.)
The NIH is considering the elimination of the error correction window within the year and they want your comments. You can download the Federal Register notice at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-5474.pdf
All comments must be submitted as directed in the Federal Register announcement and received by April 19, 2010. Thanks to Pat Dillon, Regional Director, Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Network, for the heads up on this information.