Small Business Innovation Research: Information on Awards Made by NIH and DoD in Fiscal Years 2001 through 2004

GAO-06-565 Published: Apr 14, 2006. Publicly Released: Apr 14, 2006.
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The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a three phase program that increases the use of small businesses to meet federal research needs and encourages commercialization of this research. Venture capital is one source of funding to help commercialize SBIR projects. To receive an award firms must meet ownership and other criteria and awards may exceed dollar guidelines. In 2002, the Small Business Administration (SBA) clarified that majority owners of firms that receive awards must be individuals rather than corporations. Since 2002, controversy has arisen over the extent to which venture capital firms may own SBIR firms. GAO was asked to provide information on SBIR for fiscal years 2001 - 2004. For NIH and DOD, we determined the (1) number and characteristics of awards, (2) number and characteristics of awards above the guidelines, (3) changes in award characteristics after 2002, and (4) factors agencies consider, and data they collect on, SBIR awards. NIH, DOD, and SBA provided technical comments that were incorporated, as appropriate. DOD said our findings were not surprising in light of differences in the markets for SBIR projects. SBA said our findings, though useful, may be misconstrued as suggesting a link between venture capital investment and SBIR eligibility, when no such link exists.

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