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An Assessment of the SBIR Program
Multiple Winners Should Be Judged on Output, Not Numbers ofAwards.38 In the case of multiple award winners who qualify in terms of the selection criteria, the acceptance/rejection decision should be based on their performance on past grants in terms of commercialization success and addressing agency needs, rather than on the number of grants received. Firms able to provide quality solutions to solicitations should not be excluded, a priori, from the program except on clear and transparent criteria (e.g., quality of research and/or commercialization performance).
Improve Participation and Success by Women and Minorities39
Improve Data Collection and Analysis. Agencies 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 success rates of woman- and minority-owned firms, as compared with other firms, in having their Phase I proposals granted.
Extend Outreach to Younger Women and Minority Students. Agencies should be encouraged to solicit women and underrepresented minorities working at small firms to apply as principal investigators and senior co-investigators for SBIR awards, and should track their success rates.
Encourage Participation. Agencies 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.40
Enhance Program Utilization. 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 agency budgets, drawn from the existing set-aside for the program, or by modestly increasing the set-aside for the program, currently at 2.5 percent of external research budgets.
Optimize the Return on Investment. The key point is that a modest addition to funds for program management and evaluation are necessary to
This recommendation should not be interpreted as lowering the bar for the acceptance of proposals from woman- and minority-owned companies, but rather as assisting them to become able to meet published criteria for grants at rates similar to other companies on the basis of merit, and to ensure that there are no negative evaluation factors in the review process that are biased against these groups.