The SBIR reauthorization issues, along with current provisions and annotation of what the 2009 Senate (S.1233) and House (H.R.2965) bills are proposing, are as follows:
- Should the SBIR and STTR Allocation Base be increased?
The current Allocation Base (agency R&D budget allocation percentage) is 2.5% for SBIR and 0.3% for STTR.
The Senate bill proposes increasing the SBIR program allocation from 2.5% to 3.5%, spread out over ten years, and increasing the STTR program allocation from.0.3% to 0.6% spread out over six years. The House bill proposes not changing the Allocation Base.
The issues are (a) whether the base should be increased, (b) how much it should be increased, and (c) over what time period and at what rate the increases should take effect.
- Should the Award Caps for Phase I and Phase II be increased?
The current guidelines specify caps of $100,000 for Phase I and $750,000 for Phase II for both SBIR and STTR. Awards at lesser levels may be made. Agencies may make awards in excess of these amounts but must provide a justification for each such case in their annual report to the SBA.
The Senate bill recommends increasing the award guidelines for SBIR and STTR awards to $150,000 for Phase I and to $1 million for Phase II. The House bill recommended increasing the caps to $250,000 for Phase I and $2 million for Phase II.
The issues are (a) should the caps be increased, (b) to what level should they be increased, and (c) whether (or under what conditions) awards in excess of the caps would be permitted.
- Should Phase I be permitted to be bypassed?
The current guidelines specify that the process of project funding include both a Phase I (demonstration of feasibility) and a Phase II (proof of concept) with Phase I to be successfully completed before Phase II can be awarded. Some agencies allow Fast-Track proposals to be submitted, where both phases are proposed together, but Phase II's award is dependent upon successful completion of Phase I milestones.
The House bill specifies that Phase I could be effectively bypassed with Phase II being awarded simultaneously with Phase I in "appropriate cases". The Senate bill does not make this recommendation.
The issue is whether, and/or under what conditions Phase I can be bypassed.