Scientific Retreats 2007

August 5, 2007 (historical)

A Discussion of NIAMS Support of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs

The mission of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) SBIR and STTR programs is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation and transfer through the investment of Federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy. In FY 2006, NIH support for these programs was $640 million. By law, 2.5 percent of the NIH extramural budget is set-aside for the SBIR program, which funds R&D projects that have potential for commercialization. To be eligible for the program, businesses must have fewer than 500 employees and be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or permanent residents; the principal investigator must be primarily employed by the small business. In a similar fashion, 0.3 percent of the extramural budget is set-aside for the STTR program, which facilitates cooperative R&D projects that move ideas from research institutions into the commercial market. For the STTR program, the applicant must be a small business: a minimum of 40 percent of the research must be conducted by the small business, and a minimum of 30 percent must be performed by the college or university. For both programs, the NIH supports Phase I and Phase II awards that can be submitted initially as a solo Phase I study, or as a combined Phase I-Phase II "fast-track" application. A Phase I study is a feasibility study, usually for 6 months (SBIR) or 12 months (STTR), with direct costs usually not exceeding $100,000. Phase II studies are typically 2-year, full research studies, with total direct costs usually not exceeding $750,000 combined over the two years.

Over the last 10 years, the NIAMS has supported what appears to be a successful small business program. NIAMS historically has funded these small business applications with priority scores in the low 200s or less. Reports of successful commercial products have been noted. Recently, some Institutes have discussing whether, and how, they could optimize the success of these programs. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently began to implement programmatic and administrative changes to improve its small business programs. The purposes of this evening session are to briefly review the NIH SBIR and STTR programs; summarize NIAMS support and success of the programs; review NCI's recommendations for their programs; and discuss how the NIAMS can enhance its own programs. During the discussion, we hope to address:

  1. How do we define a successful small business research program?
  2. How can the NIAMS enhance its support of small business research to better meet its mission needs?
  3. What administrative strategies could be implemented to facilitate coordination, mentoring, and program development and management?
  4. Is there a role for targeted initiatives? How could these be best implemented to meet the NIAMS mission needs and opportunities?
  5. Are there opportunities for partnership to leverage our support of small business research?