This year was a flagship year for the SBIR and STTR programs, with equal parts achievement, exhilaration and groundbreaking. None of this would be possible without the amazing work of the eleven agencies: Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Home Land Security and Transportation. These agencies, including the SBA, put billions of dollars to work across America supporting 150,000 awards – and counting, and totaling over $42 billion since the programs’ inception.
Helping high growth entrepreneurship take hold here in the U.S. has been a focus of mine, my staff’s and the SBA as a whole. Ensuring engagement and access to non-dilutive capital for STEM-driven small businesses is key. Here are three cross-agency multi-constituent items of note for this year:
SBIR ROAD TOUR
Over the past year my office, in partnership with all the participating agencies, embarked on the ambitious SBIR Road Tour. We traveled across the United States by bus to engage communities all around this great land. It was like a rock band tour except it was geeks on the bus. We stopped in 20 states to host presentations and meet one-on-one with early stage entrepreneurs and local innovation organizations. We ultimately met with thousands of people and held an equal number of high- touch one-on-one meetings.
Additionally, in partnership with a number of federal agencies, we helped coordinate two larger multi-day events in Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. which collectively were attended by over 3,000 people. For 2016, we are in the planning stage for next year’s SBIR Tour, which will start with the first of two events in Seattle and Honolulu and in early December in Austin; check out sbir.gov and sbirroadtour.com for details. More Road Tours as well as regional and national conferences are in store with the goal of hosting a meeting within 250 miles of every single one of the 50 states in our union.
We unveiled a newly revamped gateway web portal (www.sbir.gov) that operates on a two-click GUI and makes it easier for high tech entrepreneurs to locate viable funding opportunities from agencies as big as DOD and as small as EPA. Since our official launch of the new site in May, we have already attracted 1,375,746 page views and 305,270 unique visitors. We are also now more effectively linking the SBIR.gov platform with USAID’s Global Innovation Exchange, among others, to enhance channels of opportunities for small business firms to act locally, but think globally from day one.
The 11 agencies, 12 counting SBA, took input from the entire innovation ecosystem and community across the United States and a lot of amazing suggestions have come to life on the website. The site and robust database that powers its gut works using smarter search and computational algorithms, employs a two-click UI/UX interface, and engages with not only federal agencies, but also state and local government support resource networks. The functionality of the multi-agency platform we believe is unique among the “dot govs.”
The programs touch, catalyze, and seed the creation of STEM driven innovations in industries critical to the nation’s long-term competitiveness and growth – ranging from nanotech to robotics, mobile communications, genetic therapies, clean energy, advanced weapons and space exploration. Many of today’s technology giants – or their underlying technological components – received seed funding through SBIR or STTR awards via the eleven participating federal agencies.
SBA decided to go straight to the artists, designers, and other creatives to solicit ideas for the new logo via the “America’s Seed Fund” Logo Design Competition, pursuant to the America Competes Act. We received over 200 submissions– thoughtful and imaginative visual representations attempting to capture the spirit of SBIR: the government’s largest innovation effort focused on research-driven, innovative, and cutting-edge small businesses.
Our new logo matches the new website and with its improved user interface construction, it provides a platform for these two programs –supported by the eleven federal agencies with the largest R&D budgets in the U.S. government.