by reliable data, and should seek to make the program as responsive as possible to the needs of small company applicants.13
Improve Processes. The NSF should ensure that solicitation topics are broadly defined and that the topic definition process is bottom-up, and take steps to ensure the necessary flexibility to permit firms to receive relatively prompt access to Phase I solicitations. Finally, the NSF should increase its use of technically competent reviewers with strong technical expertise and strong business understanding for both Phase I and Phase II selection.14
Increase Management Funding for SBIR. To enhance program utilization, management, and evaluation, consideration should be given to the provision of additional program funds for management and evaluation. Additional funds might be allocated internally within the existing NSF budget, drawn from the existing set-aside for the program, or by increasing the set-aside for the program, currently at 2.5 percent of external research budgets. The NSF spends some $100 million a year on SBIR, and the return on this investment could be enhanced with a modest addition to funds for management and evaluation.15
Continue to Increase Private-Sector Commercialization.16
Support Commercialization Assistance. The NSF should increase support for commercialization assistance as resources permit.
Encourage Continued Experimentation. The NSF should continue to promote its positive initiative with Phase IIB awards, refining the tool as experience suggests and raising the number and amount of these awards as third-party funding permits.
Improve Participation and Success by Women and Minorities.17
Encourage Participation. The NSF should develop targeted outreach to improve the participation rates of woman- and minority-owned firms, and strategies to improve their success rates based on causal factors determined by analysis of past proposals and feedback from the affected groups.
Improve Data Collection and Analysis. The NSF should arrange for an independent analysis of a sample of past proposals from woman-and minority-owned firms and from other firms (to serve as a control group). This will help identify specific factors accounting for the lower