• It has helped DoD personnel learn about a set of high-tech firms with whom they would not otherwise ordinarily have contact.44

  • It allows DoD to draw on the creativity of the small- and medium-sized firms that comprise the SBIR community, and of the commitment of these firms to serve the needs of Services and agencies.

  • The SBIR program also has served as a filter to determine if firms have the technical, management, and financial capabilities to become reliable suppliers to DoD, whether on additional Phase III awards or for consideration in subsequent procurement competitions.

Survey responses from 347 SBIR technical monitors or Technical Points of Contact (TPOC) indicate that they perceive of DoD SBIR projects’ research to be of high quality—on average close to the quality estimated for non-SBIR awards.45 On a ten-point scale, where 10 represented the best research ever produced in the research unit/office in which the TPOC was located, SBIR awards received a mean score of 6.95. This average score was slightly below the mean score of 7.27 for non-SBIR research projects.46 This difference may be explained by outliers among the surveyed group.

SBIR projects were also found to have affected the way in which the DoD unit/office conducted research or supported research in other contracts. Fifty-three percent of TPOC respondents indicated that the specific SBIR project referred to in the survey produced results that were useful to them and which they had followed up on in other research.

Another indicator of the relative cost-effectiveness of the knowledge or informational contribution of SBIR projects to the design of DoD’s research program was that one-third of TPOC respondents noted that the SBIR project had more benefits for the agency’s mission than the average dollar spent on other re-


Firms express this outcome as follows: Had it not been for SBIR, their business with DoD services or agencies would not have developed. Services likely would have stayed with their pre-existing sources of supply. Program managers are too busy with multiple contracts to search out or respond attentively to new sources of technology. Their orientation is to hire a contractor to solve problems, not necessarily to seek out the most technologically innovative performer. The SBIR program requires that they become involved with small firms, to look at technical options, and to allow for increased competition in the selection of R&D performers.


NRC Program Manager Survey in National Research Council, An Assessment of the SBIR Program at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2009—contains a full description of the survey methodology and findings.


The difference in mean scores was statistically significant (at the .01 level), but was attributable to the considerably higher percentage of SBIR than non-SBIR projects that received low scores (e.g., 3 or below).

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