Federal Research:

Observations on the Small Business Technology Transfer Program

T-RCED-97-230: Published: Sep 4, 1997. Publicly Released: Sep 4, 1997.

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GAO discussed the results of its review of the first-year implementation of the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program, focusing on: (1) the effect of STTR on the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR); and (2) the need for the STTR program.

GAO noted that: (1) while agency officials expressed differing views on the effect of and the need for the STTR Program, all of the officials felt that the program was not competing for quality proposals with the SBIR Program or reducing the quality of the agencies' research and development in general in the first year of the program; (2) furthermore, some officials noted potentially beneficial effects, such as greater collaboration between small businesses and research institutions in the SBIR Program; (3) the similarity of the two programs, however, raises three questions that are relevant in evaluating the need for the STTR Program: (a) Is the technology originating primarily in the research institution as envisioned in the rationale for the program or is it originating in the small business? (b) Is the mandatory collaboration between the small business and the research institution effective in transferring the technology to the marketplace? and (c) Can the SBIR Program accomplish the same objective without the collaboration required by the STTR Program?; (4) since fiscal year 1990, approximately 6,500 companies have received STTR and/or SBIR awards from the five agencies that participate in both programs; (5) of these companies, 383 companies, or about 6 percent, have received a total of 10 or more STTR and/or SBIR awards; (6) while two companies have received over 300 STTR and/or SBIR awards each, agency officials reported that many other recent SBIR awardees had never received an award from their agencies; (7) however, all of the companies that have received 3 or more STTR awards have also received 5 or more SBIR awards; (8) generally, the agencies have not collected information on the number of employees and the annual revenue of the companies that receive awards and have limited information on the commercialization resulting from these programs; and (9) it is important to note, however, that it may be too early for companies that have received STTR awards to have achieved success in commercializing the results of the STTR work.

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