office: Fossil Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Nuclear Energy, Environmental Management, and Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. SC was by far the largest program participating in SBIR, receiving 64 percent of the SBIR budget. Some areas of the department were exempt by law and did not contribute to SBIR, including the naval reactors and weapons programs.
He said that the SBIR program was important to him for two reasons. First, its annual budget was large—close to $100 million. Second, he served as the chairman of the SBIR Advisory Board, an oversight committee with policymaking authority. This board, which reported to the Director of the Office of Science, allowed all of the DoE program areas to have input into the management and direction of the SBIR program, and ensured that the program was responsive to department needs. He said that the program had proven to be responsive, bringing small businesses into partnership with the national laboratories, universities, and large companies as research and development performers that made important contributions to the department’s mission.
Despite some early growing pains (i.e., the set-aside itself met with initial resistance), he said that the program had blended well with the rest of DoE’s funding mechanisms (the other 97.5 percent of the budget). SBIR was regarded within the department like any other R&D program, namely, as a vehicle by which the department could accomplish its R&D objectives. The difference was simply that the work was performed by small businesses instead of national laboratories or universities.
This management “blending-in,” he said, was critical for the SBIR office’s ability to manage the program and to gain the cooperation of the technical programs. Without their cooperation, it would be impossible to evaluate the 1,200 grant applications (Phase I + Phase II) received each year. This cooperation was achieved through a balance of both centralized and decentralized management:
The SBIR office was centralized in setting common schedules, procedures (for receipt and evaluation of grant applications), and scoring practices. The SBIR office also handled all logistics, such as dealing with thousands of outside peer reviewers.
It was decentralized in that the programs were responsible for identifying technical topics, identifying peer reviewers, and selecting grant applications for funding.