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September 28, 2022

Chairwoman Haley Stevens (D-MI) Floor Statement for S. 4900, the SBIR and STTR Extension Act of 2022

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support S. 4900, the SBIR and STTR Extension Act of 2022.

The SBIR program is a great example of innovation in policymaking. The National Science Foundation piloted the SBIR program in the 1970s, at the urging of Members of Congress who recognized that the Federal government can leverage the research and innovation capacity of small businesses to benefit the nation. Congress smartly followed up the success of the NSF SBIR program by making it a government-wide program. Forty years later, the program has given back to the taxpayer manyfold. It has been so successful, in fact, that the SBIR model has been replicated in 17 countries.

As my colleagues well know, since I was elected to Congress, I devote my Mondays to visiting a manufacturer or business in my district – what I call “Manufacturing Mondays” – which showcases southeastern Michigan’s innovation economy. I have seen the powerful impact of the SBIR program firsthand in these visits and how it is transformational in my community. Over the past five years, the SBIR program has awarded small businesses in Michigan more than $348 million in funding for R&D.

SBIR funding to small companies in Michigan has led to so many exciting discoveries and inventions; from the development of a hand-held technology that enables farmers to accurately detect nitrates in their own fields, saving farmers money and protecting our freshwater systems from toxic algal blooms; to the testing of a new ligand for PET imaging of the brain during clinical trials for new memory disorder drugs.

In order to fit the changing R&D landscape, the program needs to be periodically assessed and updated. The last comprehensive reauthorization for the SBIR program was 11 years ago. I began this Congress eager to work on updates to keep the program relevant and well-suited to support entrepreneurs across the country. That’s why I cosponsored a bipartisan reauthorization bill, H.R. 4033, together with my Science Committee colleague Dr. Baird.

Unfortunately, the House priorities in that bill were not included in the legislation before us today. So even as we provide much needed stability to the program with today’s vote, we still have work to do. One of my own priorities is to expand program outreach to enable agencies to reach more first-time entrepreneurs, especially Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and women entrepreneurs, whose innovations and businesses have long been underfunded.

I also hope to see enhanced support for technology commercialization within the program, including through additional technical support to businesses and by providing agencies a wider range of funding tools to meet the unique needs across industries. Finally, I would like to see increased support at the pre-SBIR, or so-called Phase 0 stage. These changes can help ensure SBIR funded projects make the full journey from lab to market.

In addition to extending the program, S. 4900 mandates an enhanced due diligence assessment of small businesses in effort to protect against foreign IP theft. Securing our country’s R&D assets is imperative, but we must seek security without compromising the mission of the program or becoming an unreasonable barrier to new applicants. I will closely follow the implementation of these activities.

I look forward to a full program reauthorization. In the meantime, I urge my colleagues to support S. 4900 today to extend the SBIR and STTR programs.