develop and maintain a results-oriented program with a focused evaluation culture.22
Effective oversight relies on appropriate funding. A data-driven program requires high quality data and systematic assessment. As noted above, sufficient resources are not currently available for these functions.
Increased funding is needed to provide effective oversight, including site visits, program review, systematic third-party assessments, and other necessary management activities.
To enhance program utilization, management, and evaluation, additional funds should be provided. There are three ways that this might be achieved:
Additional funds might be allocated internally, within the existing budgets of the services and agencies, as the Navy has done.
Funds might be drawn from the existing set-aside for the program to carry out these activities.
The set-aside for the program, currently at 2.5 percent of external research budgets, might be increased, with the goal of providing additional resources to maximize the program’s return to the nation.
These recommended improvements should enable the NIH SBIR managers to address the four mandated congressional objectives in a more efficient and effective manner.
Possible areas of improvement and experimentation. The NRC study identified a number of areas where improvements in the program would make it significantly better. While some of these may require NIH-wide initiatives, others might be addressed initially through carefully designed and evaluated pilot programs. Such a capability would need to be developed, and could also be used to address some recent developments that have already occurred within the program. Key areas for potential improvement include:
Improving selection procedures. Chapter 5 of this report outlines a number of areas where the selection process could be improved. These include more attention to possible conflicts of interest and addressing difficulties in evaluating commercialization plans.23
Speeding cycle time. Fairly minimal management changes focused on reducing the cycle time for awards could substantially accelerate innovation.24