Federal Research:

Interim Report on the Small Business Innovation Research Program

RCED-95-59: Published: Mar 8, 1995. Publicly Released: Mar 8, 1995.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, focusing on: (1) whether the quality of research proposals has kept pace with the program's expansion; (2) the implementation of a provision for technical assistance to agencies; and (3) the duplicate funding of similar research projects.

GAO found that: (1) the quality of research proposals has kept pace with the program's expansion; (2) it is too early to make a conclusive judgment about the long-term quality of research proposals because major increases in program funding have not yet occurred; (3) none of the five major agencies taking part in the SBIR program have implemented the discretionary provision for technical assistance to agencies and future implementation remains uncertain; (4) these agencies have taken steps to provide assistance with the commercialization of research results; (5) duplicate funding of similar research projects has become a problem due to the increasing numbers of research proposals submitted to the SBIR program; (6) a few companies received funding for the same proposals on more than one occasion before the agencies became aware of the duplication; and (7) duplicate funding occurs due to the evasion of certification procedures, lack of consensus on what constitutes a duplicate proposal, and the general lack of current information on recent SBIR awards.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In July 1995, SBA issued a program information notice specifying procedures to avoid funding duplicate research. In particular, the notice provided improved language for use by SBIR agencies in their SBIR certification forms. The language included a clear warning about the illegality of entering into contracts or grants requiring essentially equivalent effort. It added that, if there is any question concerning this (duplicative research), it must be disclosed to the soliciting agency or agencies before award.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, Small Business Administration (SBA), should take steps to determine whether the certification form that accompanies SBIR proposals needs to be improved and, if so, take the necessary steps to revise it.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SBA's July 1995 program information notice provided guidelines regarding the avoidance of funding duplicate research. However, the notice does not contain substantive definitions to identify situations in which two proposals are sufficiently similar that both should not be funded. SBA has indicated that it believes the guidelines and other steps undertaken are sufficient and does not plan to develop substantive definitions in consultation with the SBIR agencies.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, SBA, should take steps to develop substantive definitions and guidelines for agencies and companies regarding "duplicative" research.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SBA developed plans to link all of the SBIR agencies through the Internet to access SBIR data. Software has been written to make this feasible. SBA launched the system in July 1998.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, SBA, should take steps to provide interagency access to current information regarding recent SBIR awards.

    Agency Affected: Small Business Administration

 

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