Lots of SBIR action to report on, much of which is centered around SBIR 2.0, Tibbetts Awards, Milton Stewart Awards, more Altmire Quagmire, and of course election politics as it relates to SBIR and small businesses.
We have no desire to try and influence your vote, but we do want you to be informed about the deeds of our politicians as it relates to SBIR and small business issues.
I feel the obligation to reiterate our SBIR Insider disclaimer: We hold both parties in equal contempt, so if we say something nice about the "other guys" it's not meant to be at "your guys" expense (whomever your guys are).
As for my party affiliation, I'm neither republican nor democrat. I'm a pedestrian.
SMALL BIZ POLITICS AND THE FUTURE OF SBIR REAUTHORIZATION
Work on SBIR reauthorization has been continuing even during this time of congressional adjournment. Staffers from the Senate's Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship (SBE) have continued to try and find a reasonable compromise to reauthorize SBIR/STTR for the next 8 years.
The Senate SBE has come closer to accomplishing this goal than anytime in recent memory. One source reflecting that even the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) may be able to live with the latest compromise. The National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) is another matter, and they have been on record that they will not support the program unless there is full open access to their VC owned companies.
With many new faces due to come in to 112th congress, NVCA and BIO seem content to leave the SBIR VC issue and reauthorization to the next congress.
Congress is scheduled to return to the Hill the week of November 15 and we'll see what type of "lame duck" session evolves. Depending on the moods of the House leadership, and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), House Small Business Committee (SBC) chair, there's a slim chance we could see some concession on the House's part to accept the Senate's latest SBIR compromise. This would allow house democrats to take some credit for passing an important small business bill in waning days of the 111th congress while the democrats still control the House.
With only a couple of days to go before elections, it looks very much like the republicans will capture the House, while the democrats hold the Senate by the slimmest of margins. Whatever the final outcome, we know there will be many new faces that will need exposure and education concerning small business and SBIR/STTR. That will be the challenge for you and other small business organizations.
In addition to our freshman Senators and Representatives, we'll have lots of new staffers, many of which will play pivotal roles in getting the accurate message to their bosses in order to obtain support for SBIR. There will be lots of work to do to try and insure a secure stable future for SBIR/STTR.
The next congress (112th) won't take office until Tuesday January 4, 2011 (at the earliest) and they will have plenty on their plate. We'll have more on possible election consequences at the end of this issue.
WHAT IS SBIR 2.0
SBIR 2.0 is an initiative by the SBA and the federal agency SBIR program managers to modernize and streamline the SBIR program. You can (and should) read the entire description of the program as listed on the SBA's web site at www.sba.gov/sbir2/
An unusual and exciting development at SBA is that Sean Greene, Associate Administrator for Investment and Innovation has taken a keen interest in SBIR, and has moved the Office of Technology (the office that guides SBIR/STTR) from the bowels of SBA to a much better position within his hierarchy where the program can receive more attention and resources.
Greene, who hails from the private sector, has a track record of success as an entrepreneur and investor. It's been a long time since a SBA has allowed a senior level staffer to become intimately involved with SBIR. He has a robust background in the computer software/services world, hence the moniker of SBIR 2.0 (the 2.0 being a computer terminology for a new and improved platform).
However, with most innovative 2.0 efforts come flaws. SP1 (service packs to fix errors and unintended consequences) will follow. I would say that SBIR 2.0 is actually in the "Beta" stage and is being readied for Release Candidate (RC1).
As with anything new, there will be features you like and some perhaps.. not-so-much. It will be a dynamic effort, and several of the "old timers" are looking forward to working with the design group to make the program better for all.
The SBA will soon be taking over the current sbir.gov web site with the goal of creating a "kind of" one stop shop for SBIR opportunities. This will include a cross agency topic search as well SBIR schedules and other important information.
Although I'm not a believer in one-stop-shops, a comprehensive official SBIR web site with current information would be great, and I'll applaud that effort if they do it properly (not like the current sbir.gov). Sean Greene is being assisted in this by Ahson Wardak, who also has a good background in innovation and computer systems, so I'm looking forward to see what they come up with.
I'm also flattered by the number of people who voiced concerned to the SBA that their new portal would be competition to our SBIR Gateway www.zyn.com/sbir I can assure you this is not the case. Our SBIR Gateway is a total unsubsidized non commercial pro bono effort to help you to find SBIR opportunities. If SBA does a good job, I'll be able to back off on some of the time consuming work on the topic search. The SBIR Gateway will not go away, (we are currently handling almost 60,000 topic searches per month), and we'll continue to give you information as long as you find it of value.
You'll still have the resources from the agencies such as the DoD topic search (www.dodsbir.net/), the Navy's exciting new Autonomy Powered SBIR/STTR Awards Search (www.navysbirsearch.com) which also includes other DoD agency components. You can't exclude the granddaddy of them all DTIC (www.dtic.mil/). There are other independent search sites such as SBIRLink (www.sbirlink.com) and technology transfer related sites such as DoDTechmatch.com (www.dodtechmatch.com) and www.federallabs.org
JOINT SBIR SOLICITATION ON ROBOTICS TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT AND DEPLOYMENT
This solicitation which is an offshoot of SBIR 2.0 has generated a lot of concern and confusion. There is a great deal of misunderstanding and unpreparedness concerning how this program works, and the merits and demerits of its existence. If streamlining and simplicity is indeed the goal, this solicitation is way off the mark.
In this experimental project, five agencies consisting of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), National Science Foundation (NSF), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have released a new type of joint SBIR solicitation (see grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-10-279.html). The solicitation opens November 20, 2010 and closes December 20, 2010.
Shortly after its release we started receiving many calls from companies familiar with contracts based solicitations but who were befuddled by this grants process and their inability to get questions answered, i.e., how can they contact the TPOC (technical point of contact), are grants taxable and if so is it at the same rate as contracts?" How are the proposals to be evaluated?
Those who regularly submit for SBIR through the grants process don't realize how foreign and unrelated that process is compared to SBIR contracts participants (e.g. DoD or DHS).
The NIH submittal process is the most complicated of all SBIR programs, and their system is the mechanism employed for this joint solicitation. NIH understands the Grants.gov and eRA commons like the back of their hand, and often don't understand small businesses being confused by it.
Conversely, one may ask why the NIH has so much trouble understanding the contracts mechanism because with all their technical savvy they can only accept their SBIR contracts proposals in old fashion hard copy (an original and 5 copies).
Suffice to say that this program opportunity is complex and will require additional time to comprehend. Jim Greenwood, of the Greenwood Consulting Group, Inc. (not the BIO guy) has written an excellent "must read" article on this solicitation entitled: "To Submit or Not Submit Under the Joint Agency Robotics Solicitation" It is located at www.g-jgreenwood.com/sbir_proposal_writing_basics114.htm
SBIR Insider friend Fred Patterson (aka the SBIR Coach) has put together a class on this Joint Robotic Solicitation and will be presenting it at the National SBIR Conference in Oklahoma City, November 8-10, 2010. See the SBIR Coach's web site at www.sbircoach.com for details.
SBA TO HOST TIBBETTS AWARDS 2011
The SBA is bringing back the Tibbetts Awards Program for 2011.
Named for Roland Tibbetts, the person acknowledged as the father of the SBIR program, these prestigious, national awards are made to those small firms, projects, organizations and individuals judged to exemplify the very best in SBIR achievement.
The emphasis is on recognizing those accomplishments where, in the judgment of those closely involved and often most immediately affected, the stimulus of SBIR funding has made an important and definable difference.
The official web site address and submission dates are not yet confirmed but the SBA is hoping to open for nominations soon and to have the awards ceremony in Washington, DC mid February 2011.
SBTC HONORS MILTON STEWART AWARD RECIPIENTS
The Small Business Technology Council honored some of small businesses' biggest friends and allies on September 29th for the Milton Stewart Awards. Twenty-four individuals from Congress, the Administration, and state organizations were honored at two different receptions on Capitol Hill: a morning breakfast on the Senate side, and an afternoon reception on the House side. The awards were given to individuals who have advocated for, and made outstanding contributions to technology-oriented American small business.
Among those on hand to receive their awards were Senator Mary Landrieu, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Congressmen Ike Skelton, Norm Dicks, Ed Markey, Peter Welch, Don Manzullo, Paul Tonko, and Phil Gingrey, and Department of Energy Under Secretary Kristina Johnson.
Other winners not able to attend were Senators Olympia Snowe and Carl Levin, and Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Jr.
Staffers play a major role in the legislative process and award winners include Senate Staffers: Alex Hecht, Kevin Wheeler, Arun Seraphin, and Peter Levine
House staffers honored were: Timothy McClees, Tim Prince, Mitchell Robinson, and Kate Lynch.
State representatives that played an important role and received awards were Roy Keller from Louisiana and William B Simon from Missouri.
Complete details are available on the SBTC web site at www.sbtc.org
THE ALTMIRE QUAGMIRE PART IV
The American Small Business League (ASBL) has named Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) as the single most anti-small business member of Congress.
"During his four years in office, Representative Altmire has introduced several bills that could have destroyed millions of small businesses, cost countless jobs and diverted billions of dollars in federal contracts away from the middle class economy."
If you think the SBIR Insider was tough on Altmire, listen to what ASBL President Lloyd Chapman had to say. "Jason Altmire is the epitome of the type of person who should not be in Congress. He is a coldblooded lobbyist who was willing to push legislation that would have shut down small businesses across the country."
To view the full article, go to www.asbl.com/showmedia.php?id=1757
WHAT "IF" REPUBLICANS WIN THE HOUSE?
This is an interesting scenario that may very well face the SBIR community. Arguably, four of the biggest obstacles to SBIR reauthorization currently in the House are:
1) Nydia Velazquez [SBC Chair] - You've read chapter and verse concerning the outrageous actions, opinions and contempt that this person and her staffer Michael Day have toward SBIR companies with no VC ownership. Although Velazquez will win reelection, it is not clear if she would become Ranking member of the SBC, or perhaps they would move her to some other committee. Mr. Day, who some refer to as "the tail that wags the dog," works for Ms. Velazquez in two capacities, 1) Chief of Staff, and 2) SBC Staff Director.
2) Nancy Pelosi [House Speaker & Leadership] - Until the last few weeks, Ms. Pelosi supported the actions of Velazquez and Day until it became apparent that their actions were detrimental to passing the President's small business bill, and keeping SBIR alive through January 31, 2011 (via another continuing resolution). Pelosi (who has not been a good friend to SBIR) will win reelection but will see her role as Speaker go away. It is not clear if she would become the Democratic minority leader in the House, or if she would step down. It is possible that Steny Hoyer (D-MD) may assume that role, and he is much more SBIR and small business friendly.
3) Jason Altmire [D-PA] - The author of the House's SBIR reauthorization bill that contained severe provisions that would allow large entities to majority own and control small businesses and compete for SBIR awards. He did the same against the entire small business community when he authored H.R. 3567 "Small Business Investment Expansion Act of 2007". He also wrote a series of misleading "Dear Colleague" letters (The Altmire Quagmire) to House members to try and force his House SBIR bill to steamroll the Senate's version. He will likely win reelection but his influence will be reduced.
4) Sam Graves [R-MO ranking member of SBC] - Mr. Graves has been in the back pocket of BIO and NVCA for many years, sponsoring bills to allow majority ownership by VCs in small business programs. Examples of Graves efforts over the years to deliver to NVCA and BIO include: a) H.R.4149 in 2004; b) H. R.2943 in 2005: c) H.R.3567 in 2007 d) H.R. 5819 in 2008; e) H.R.2767 in 2009 f) his work on the current SBIR H. R. 2965. Graves will most likely become the new Chair of the House Small Business Committee in the 112th congress.
Hypothetical analysis (you have to love that term) of a Republican House's effect on SBIR:
1a) Sam Graves Replaces Nydia Velazquez as Chair SBC - A mixed bag because they both have the same "buy in" from that infamous group "The Wall Street Boys" (NVCA & BIO). Graves could be a slight improvement over Velazquez because he is less likely to embarrass the House leadership. Unlike Velazquez, Graves has become pretty savvy with his web site and reaching out to the small business community. However, he could be more dangerous to the SBIR program because he is more polished and sneaky than Velazquez.
1b) Word on the street is that if former congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) is elected (he used to be ranking member of the SBC), Boehner would restore his seniority (prior to being voted out in 2008) and Chabot would be equal to Graves in seniority. It is not known if Graves would like to stay put or if Chabot would like another committee position. The bad news, republican committee chair term limits make small business champion Donald Manzulo (R-IL) ineligible for SBC committee chair.
2) John Boehner Replaces Nancy Pelosi as Speaker - Pelosi, one of the wealthiest members of congress and whose district (San Francisco) and fortunes are tied to the investment community, has no fear of repercussions from her constituents when she favors Wall Street over Main Street. On the other hand Boehner, who is not in the top 100 of the Hill's wealthiest, is from a diverse district including suburbs northwest of Cincinnati to large agricultural areas in southwestern Ohio. As for SBIR, Boehner has voted against Sam Graves and Velazquez on the VC Issue, and voted once against friend and neighbor, former congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) on a small business VC issue. Boehner should be a better friend to SBIR than was Pelosi.
3) Ralph Hall (R-TX) Replaces Bart Gordon (D-TN) as Chair of the House Science Committee. Gordon was no friend of SBIR, and he allowed his subcommittee chair, David Wu (D-OR) to go along with Velazquez and her SBC on the SBIR VC issue. Hall may be an improvement because he's been around this for a long time and there are lots of SBIR companies in Texas. Hall could become a friend and make the science committee a little stronger in SBIR than they have been under Gordon. There is a remote chance that Hall may not get the position because the republicans are faced with an embarrassment brought about by congressman Joe Barton's (R-TX) apology to BP during the spill. Barton is in line for chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, but that's a lot more public than the S&T committee. No question that Hall wants the S&T committee chair, and will work hard to get it.
4) Howard (Buck) McKeon (R-CA) replaces Ike Skelton (D-MO) on House Armed Services Committee. Ike Skelton has been a great and valuable friend to the SBIR community and his leadership will be missed. He and his staffers worked well with Senate Armed Services chair Carl Levin (D-MI) and they are responsible for getting the one year SBIR extension for DoD back in 2009. However, Buck McKeon has played a powerful role for SBIR and small business, and he voted down the 2007 Altmire Quagmire in spite of the fact that many republicans voted for it.
5) Jerry Lewis (R-CA) replaces David Obey (D-WI) on the House Appropriations Committee. David Obey (not a great SBIR supporter) was retiring from the House and Norm Dicks (D-WA) was in line to be the next chair if the democrats held the House. Norm Dicks has been a solid SBIR supporter and has offered up legislation, the "DoD Rapid Innovation Program" that could improve the way phase III were done in the DoD. Dicks was the DoD appropriations subcommittee chair and has worked hard for SBIR. However, Jerry Lewis has been a long time supporter of SBIR as well. Coming from California, the largest SBIR winning state, he knows the program's potential in both innovation and job creation.
I'm sorry we had to have so much political coverage in this issue of the SBIR Insider, but your involvement may be paramount in having congress reauthorize the SBIR/STTR program.
We have to let the newcomers in congress know about the importance and success of SBIR in leading innovation, increasing competitiveness and creating good wage paying jobs.
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What should you build first when developing your startup: the seed-money, the product, or the team? - Quora
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