One congressional objective for the program concerns support for woman and minority firms. Understanding current trends is more complex than it might appear.4

A major problem concerns data collection and monitoring. NRC analysis revealed a systemic failure by NIH to capture this data effectively from applications forms during several recent years. At the request of the NRC, NIH has now re-entered that data for 2002-2005; and it is believed that the data prior to 2000 are accurate.5 At DoD, the problem lies with the companies: Spot checks have indicated that companies with many applications often label them inconsistently: a firm can label some applications as woman-owned, some as minority-owned, some as neither—sometimes all in the same year. While DoD makes an effort to correct these errors once the application has become an award, this means that the data for woman and minority success rates at DoD are not reliable.

Finally, there are inconsistencies described earlier with discrepancies between SBA and agency data.

Still, bearing these points in mind, we use the SBA data in this section to provide comparability.

Figure 3-11 shows the award data for woman-owned and minority-owned businesses reported by SBA. The data show that the number of Phase I awards to woman- and minority-owned businesses have increased, especially since 1998, and are up by 172 percent since then. The apparent surge in 2000 is not understood.

The data on minority-owned firms is different. It shows a much flatter trend—again marked by the surge in 2000, with no increase at all over the last five years, at a time when the number of awards made overall has increased sharply.

The number of awards provides only part of the story. Context is provided by the overall number of awards made, and hence by the shares of Phase I awards to woman- and minority-owned firms.

Overall, the percentage of Phase I awards going to minority-owned firms have been declining, while the share going to woman-owned firms has been growing (see Figure 3-13). The trends are broadly consistent, with woman-owned


The traditional benchmark for this has been the inclusion of woman- and minority-owned businesses, addressed below. However, it is worth noting that support for woman and minority principal investigators may be another important way to view “inclusion,” although currently data are not collected in a way that would address this possibility.


Following discussions with the NRC staff, the NIH made an effort to recalculate the data for women and minority owners’ participation in the SBIR program. In September, 2007, the NIH provided corrected data. However, apparent anomalies in the NIH data on the participation of women and minorities in 2001-2002 could not be resolved by the time of publication of this report. This qualification applies to all charts in this section of the report. (This is a correction of the text in the prepublication version released on July 27, 2007.)

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