The legislative compromise on a short-term payroll tax extension dominated headlines in late December, but few journalists heralded a provision that was included in the bill that will help small businesses and boost America’s economy: the six-year reauthorization of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
The SBIR program helps empower our nation’s small entrepreneurs by funding a major federal Research & Development endeavor, creating new jobs and growing our economy. As a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, I have been a long-time supporter of this highly successful program.
Small businesses – which are often underrepresented in government R&D programs — employ 41 percent of our nation’s high-tech workers and generate 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large firms. By harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses and giving them the funding they need to be innovative, the SBIR program has spurred job growth and the development of advanced technology, like clean energy and life-saving therapies and devices. Because of the SBIR program, every federal department with an R&D budget of $100 million or more is required to award SBIR funding to small businesses.
Since its inception in 1983, the SBIR has provided small businesses in Maryland with more than $1.5 billion in funding. These federal funds are a testament to the ingenuity of Maryland’s 440,000 small businesses and they have helped make our state an epicenter of technological innovation in America.
Thanks to the SBIR program, small businesses in Maryland are at the forefront of national defense research, new life-saving health care technologies and the search for clean energy technologies. I have been fortunate to visit companies in Maryland that have put SBIR funding to good use, including BioFactura of Rockville, which received $1 million from the Department of Defense to develop new treatment for the adverse effects of the smallpox vaccine.
Another Maryland company, Frederick-based Biological Mimetics, is using SBIR funding from the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a vaccine for the rhinovirus, which causes the common cold in 20 million Americans each year. These two initiatives are just two examples of countless other SBIR-funded projects underway in Maryland and throughout the United States.
The reauthorization of SBIR brings much needed stability and certainty to the program, which had not received an extended authorization in more than a decade. Prior to reauthorization of the program, small businesses who depended on SBIR funding experienced 14 painful short-term extensions since 2008.
Small entrepreneurs in Maryland and around the nation now can be sure that Uncle Sam will stand behind them as they continue working to bring their ideas to the marketplace — innovative ideas that will create jobs and help our economy recover while making us a safer, stronger and more secure nation.