Federal Research:

Assessment of Small Business Innovation Research Programs

RCED-89-39: Published: Jan 23, 1989. Publicly Released: Jan 23, 1989.

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Pursuant to a legislative mandate, GAO examined the: (1) effectiveness of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program in strengthening the role of small innovative firms in federally supported research and development; and (2) quality of SBIR projects, as compared to the quality of traditional agency research.

GAO found that 1982 legislation required federal agencies with large research and development budgets to operate SBIR programs to strengthen small businesses' roles in federally supported research and development through program goals involving: (1) stimulation of technological innovation; (2) the use of small businesses to meet federal research and development needs; (3) increased private-sector commercialization of innovations from federal research and development; and (4) encouragement of minority and disadvantaged firms in technological innovation. GAO also found that the 12 agencies operating SBIR programs: (1) awarded over $1.35 billion through fiscal year 1988, with the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for 55 percent and 19 percent of the funding, respectively; (2) adopted procedures to identify and select technically superior and innovative proposals; (3) reported that SBIR programs helped them meet their research and development needs, although the agencies differed in their use of small businesses to meet their needs; (4) differed in their emphasis on promoting commercial innovation; (5) sought to foster and encourage minority and disadvantaged business participation through outreach activities; and (6) considered 29 percent of SBIR projects to be of higher quality than non-SBIR research and half of SBIR projects to be equal in quality to non-SBIR research.

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